Wednesday, April 12, 2006

All that Stuff

Vanity Fair’s Green Issue
If you can get passed Julia Roberts’ ensemble, it’s worth the read.

Canada’s Tory Government on Kyoto
Canada gets tough, sort of not really, on the environment!

An Ode to Stuff
In 1955, Life Magazine dubbed America as the “throw-away society” in response to the introduction of disposable packaging. Up until then, people tended to reuse and recycle containers such as milk bottles. Only a few had disposable income. Many reused things out of necessity.

Today, the “throw-away” culture has included the very products we buy. I am encouraged to toss my cell phone because a new battery costs more than a brand new phone. Thanks to advances in technology and fast-paced fashion trends, what worked or was all the rage two years ago isn’t as good as what is available now, or is quite simply passé. And we all think we have the income to support this buying and tossing and buying and tossing cycle. Bear in mind that 45% of Americans carry a median balance of $1,900 on their credit cards.

Now we have a glut of cheap products coming in from China and other developing countries. Why so cheap? Low low low-income labour and no pesky environmental laws. And it’s sold to big box stores like Walmart, which demands cripplingly low prices from its suppliers.

So where does all this stuff go when we don’t want it anymore? And how far does it have to go to get there? In Toronto, some of it travels all the way to Michigan to a land fill, adding to the GHG emission price tag it earned when it was created in the first place.

How much goes to the landfill? Packaging alone makes up half of our cities’ solid waste by volume and one third of our waste by weight. How about what’s being dubbed e-waste? In Canada, it amounts to 67,000 tonnes a year. In the USA, that figure is over 2 million. This stuff is valuable. It’s also toxic.

So what can you do, aside from recycle what you have?

TO Do This Week

Sometimes Less Really is Less, but Actually More
Can you buy less?
Can you choose quality over quantity?
Can you buy reused?

This week, I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to think about your spending habits and where you can cut back or invest in quality (albeit expensive) purchases that will last longer.

Think also about buying in bulk, which will reduce the packaging you receive. Can you shop at places that sell either used or recycled goods? There are some funky used-clothing stores out there so you don’t have to pay a fortune for new clothing made to look used. How smart is that? Can you cut back on buying clothes? If not, why?

Can you upgrade your computer? Is it really at its last legs and cannot accommodate an upgrade…? If so….

E-Recycle your E-Waste
If you are ready to give up electronic equipment or cell phones, and are loathe to donate them to the landfill, you can sell/donate them to companies and organizations that can fix them up and sell them to not-for-profit organizations or low-income families.

They are:

An international company based in Ontario that buys your old cell phones and printer cartridges.

Electronic Recycling Association
Computer recycling in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal. The also serve the USA and UK.

Computer recycling in Toronto and Montreal

BSE Recycling
Californians Against Waste
Recycling in California

For more companies in more cities, click here.

Tame Your Energy Beasts
If you suspect that your major appliances are energy hogs, they most likely are. So take action!

But we’ll start next week…

Aside from changing your driving habits, your action towards insuring an efficient home is the most important step to significantly reducing your GHG contribution.

This may be of greater interest to the home owner than those of us who rent. However, we renters can pass on some of the energy and money saving tips to the owners of our homes. We can also do a few things that do not require directive from the boss. There are some important and inexpensive ways to make our appliances more energy efficient. More on that next week….


MSN Money

Fast Company

E-Waste Guide

In the News


Truth Out

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