Friday, September 29, 2006

The Amazing Disappearing - Reappearing Minister

When the intrepid Ms. Ambrose turned up missing following the release of the Environment Commissioner's report, I started to get worried. Even Treasury Board President John Baird didn't seem to know where she was.

With still no sign of her this morning, I was just about to call those nice, friendly FBI agents from the CBS show Without a Trace, when I heard a report on the CBC's The Current that she had been located. Nothing to worry about - she was only visiting her friends on the oil patch. Whew! Too bad that she didn't have time to answer questions from the pesky reporters, and had to slip out the back!

And now she's been spotted giving an interview on CTV's Mike Duffy show. However, something seems different - like she's changed...

"The time of politely asking industry to do the right thing is over," Ambrose said Friday during an interview on CTV's Mike Duffy Live. "We need national standards."

Something's wrong here. Has somebody kidnapped the real Rona and replaced her with somebody who actually has a clue? Or is it all a cruel hoax?

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode right here on "As the World Burns".

Sunday, September 24, 2006

How much electricity do you use?

At our house, we're constantly looking for ways to reduce our electricity consumption. Our average electricity use for this year is around 470 kWh/month. Given that the average household in Ontario uses 1000 kWh/month, it's not too bad. But I'm sure there's more we can do, if we work at it.

And now that we've signed up for Bullfrog Power, we have an extra incentive to reduce our consumption (because the rate per kWh is a bit higher than with Oakville Hydro).

There's a new program in Ontario put on by the Conservation Council of Ontario called Lighten Up Ontario. You can enter your current electricity usage and pledge the actions that you'll take to reduce it. For example, you could save 30 kWh/month by switching your lightbulbs to compact fluorescents. They have a great list of tips and links.

It's one way to keep on thinking about conserving, and how we can turn ourselves into a conserver- rather than a consumer-society.

But, I really signed up so that I could use this photo of Colin Mochrie ;-)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost - why it's important!

I know that you all recycle anyway - because it's good for the environment, and saves landfill space - right? But following the '3Rs' and composting also save energy and help to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Avoiding the production of a material in the first place is the single most effective way to avoid emissions at all stages of its life cycle. Reusing materials also diverts waste from disposal, at least temporarily. (Source)

However, once a material has been produced, recycling is probably the best way to dispose of it. Here are some facts you can use when somebody tells you that it's just too much trouble to recycle that pop can or piece of paper!

How recycling saves resources, energy and GHG emissions:

The waste sector accounts for 3.5 per cent of Canada's total greenhouse-gas emissions.

Recycling one aluminum can saves enough electricity to operate a TV for up to 3 hours. (Source)

A ton of paper made from recycled fibers instead of virgin fibers conserves:
* 7,000 gallons of water
* 17-31 trees
* 4,000 KWh of electricity
* 60 pounds of air pollutants

Increase storage of carbon in trees. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in wood, in a process called "carbon sequestration." Waste prevention and recycling of paper products allow more trees to remain standing in the forest, where they can continue to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Using recycled glass to make new glass products requires 40 percent less energy than making it from all new materials.

When recovered steel is used instead of iron ore to make new steel, water consumption is reduced by about 50%.

It takes 70% less energy to recycle plastic than it does to make it from raw materials.

A family of three can reduce GHG emissions by more than 125 kilograms per year by backyard composting.

Reduce and reuse too!
If you can save this much energy by recycling, think of all the energy you save when you:

* Buy less stuff!
* Buy stuff with less packaging!
* Use re-usable items, rather than disposable items!

Thursday, September 14, 2006


I subscribe to a listserv called Good Work, which emails job opportunities "in environment, sustainable living, organics, peace and related themes".

Here's a recent posting I thought worth repeating:

Position: Change Organizer/Networker/Catalyst
Organization: you, together with other individuals, groups & organizations
Location: your city, province or state
Apply to: yourself, your friends, local groups, your community

"A five-day march by hundreds of Vermonters calling
for real action to address the climate crisis... Bill
McKibben, who trekked all 50 miles, reports that the
event changed Vermont politics -- and made him feel more
hopeful than he has in nearly 20 years of climate activism."

Full story from Grist magazine

Bill McKibben is the author of The End of Nature (which was recently re-printed, and I am currently reading). His story of this march is very inspiring. If the Tories don't come up with something worthwhile soon, I think we should all march to Ottawa! Anybody else up for a trip???

11 Realistic Ways You Can Help Reduce Global Warming - Part 2

My recent post was very Ontario-centric, so here are some links to information in the rest of Canada. If I've missed any good links, please let me know!

1. Change to accredited Green Power option

Pollution Probe has a listing of how to buy green power across Canada!

2. Install energy-efficient hot water system and 3. Install solar panels

The Canadian Solar Industries Association has a list of rebates/subsidies for solar thermal and solar electric installations by province/region.

On this site it mentions that if you happen to be a customer of Cambridge and North Dumfries Hydro, you may even be eligible for a grant to install a solar hot water heater!

7. Check fuel efficiency of next car

Here's a listing of fuel-efficient cars in Canada, including the EnerGuide winners.

According to this article, Quebec, PEI, and BC also offer sales tax rebates on hybrid cars. Note, however, that you may not get the full amount of the rebate, depending on how you've purchased the car, and how much sales tax you paid.

BC: Here's a link to the rebate form (PDF)
Quebec: Link to more info
PEI: Here's a link to the rebate form (PDF)

8. Walk, cycle or take public transport

More information from the Sierra Club of Canada

10. Suggest a workplace audit

Some ideas from Green Learning

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Heat is On: The Economist

The Economist has produced a special report on climate change (on sale this week).

Not only do their articles advocate action on the issue, the entire issue was made carbon-neutral by purchasing carbon offsets!

You can view the articles online (after viewing a commercial). Here are links to two of them:

The Heat is On

The Heat is On: Survey Introduction

Let's just hope that Harper and Bush are paying attention!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Tim Flannery's "11 Realistic Ways You Can Help Reduce Global Warming"

Here is a list of action items from Tim Flannery's web site (author of The Weather Makers). After some items, I've provided links to local (mostly Ontario) resources and information.

(Action = Impact)

1. Change to accredited Green Power option = Eliminate household emissions from electricity

It's easy to do this in Ontario:

Bullfrog Power
Green Tags Ontario
Oakville Hydro's Green Power program

More information is available at Electricity Choices

2. Install energy-efficient hot water system = Up to 30% reductions in household emissions

You can install a tankless (on-demand) gas system, or a solar (thermal) system, or both!

OZZ Corporation offers high-efficient tankless hot water heaters. You can buy or rent (according to their web site)
I've also noticed them for sale at the Home Depot.

Lots of places that sell solar systems are listed on the Electricity Choices web site.

BONUS: The Ontario government is offering residential consumers a full sales tax rebate on the purchase of solar energy systems and components up to November 26, 2007.

Another energy-saving idea: Install a heat-recovery unit on your drain to recover some of the energy wasted by showers, etc.

3. Install solar panels = Eliminate household emissions from electricity

While this is a great idea, it can be really expensive. (I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing this until you've made your household as efficient as possible first.) However, with the new offering from the Ontario government it has become somewhat more cost-effective. Some people in Toronto are trying to implement this in their neighborhood.

If you want to do this on your own, Electricity Choices has a list of suppliers.

4. Use energy-efficient whitegoods = Up to 50% reduction in household emissions from electricity

When replacing your old appliances, be sure to look for the Energy Star logo!

5. Use triple-A rated shower-head = Up to 12% reduction in household emissions

These are available at any hardware store. Here's some information from HydroOne.

6. Use energy-efficient light globes = Up to 10% reduction in household emissions

Again, these are available almost everywhere. The Ontario government send some coupons for $5 off on these earlier this year.

7. Check fuel efficiency of next car = Up to 70% reduction in transport emissions

Ontario offers up to $2000 rebate on the PST when you purchase a hybrid vehicle.

8. Walk, cycle or take public transport = Can reduce transport emissions

Taking the bus, train, or your bike can be lots of fun. We've started to take our weekly trip to the grocery store by bicycle (when the weather permits). It's fun, and we get some exercise!

9. Calculate carbon footprint = Can eliminate transport & household emissions

Some places online that you can do this:

Although the Government of Canada has taken down its climate change web site, their GHG calculator is still available (for now!). Visit while you can.

There is also, Al Gore's version, and one from the World Resources Institute.

There are many more out there if you Google 'carbon footprint'. Take your pick.

Of course, then you need to decide what to do with the information. For example, maybe you want to offset your emissions. Lots of choices there too. The David Suzuki Foundation has a list of vendors, as well as lots of info.

10. Suggest a workplace audit = Up to 30% reduction in emissions

This site is from Australia, but the ideas should work here too.

11. Write to a politician about climate change = Can change the world

OK - I've tried this, and I don't think I've changed Rona's mind yet. But maybe if we all join in? It can't hurt, anyway! See this post for contact information for your federal politicians.

And don't forget your provincial and municipal politicians - especially with municipal elections coming up soon. We emit GHGs at all levels of government!

Edited to addd: Check out this post for more links to information in other provinces.