Natasha Wilson

359 Things – Who Really Needs Phonebooks?
April 7, 2009, 20:37
Filed under: 365 Things

phone-booksIt started with the familiar sound of heavy steps on my front porch, accompanied by the audible thud that I’ve come to expect around this time every year. What follows is my mad dash through the living room, tripping on wooden blocks, slipping on abandoned mittens.  I fling open the front door, and fly down the front steps (in my socks), in an entire picture that is far from graceful and leaves my neighbours wondering where the fire is.

“Hello!” <huffing and puffing> “Can you please take these phonebooks back?  I don’t need them.”

A better strategy would have been to pick up the phone and dial my local phone service provider, to let them know in advance that I wouldn’t be needing any phonebooks.  Nonetheless, here I was, the proud new owner of 1200 pages of post-consumer recycled print.  I had to do something.  I’m striving to do 365 things – and this was the one thing I needed to do today.

Let’s be realistic.  When’s the last time you used a paper phonebook?  And if you did, was there a laptop, desktop, Blackberry, iPhone, or landline near by?  In this day-and-age, it’s hard to justify receiving these phonebooks, every year, when so many other information/directory options are available to us.

Here are a few quick tips for managing your mail:

1. Have a personal conversation with your mail carrier – ask him/her to cut back on the amount of “junk” (advertising mail) you receive

2. When the phonebooks (or the junk mail) hits the front porch, make an effort to return them to the carrier

3. Call ahead to indicate your preferences

4. Lobby your local phone provider to make phonebooks and “opt-in” service, not an “opt-out” service*

* Instead of delivering these phonebooks to every single household, how about letting households who need them, request them?  Surely most of us don’t need them, and/or don’t care if we have them, but don’t cease delivery.  It would seem that opting to receive it would make a lot more sense, than opting to not.

360 Things – Scribble Digitally
April 7, 2009, 01:28
Filed under: 365 Things

paper-pileI mentioned in an earlier post (“365 Things – Pick One”) that I was  looking for 365 things that I can do to in my life (and I hope you can do in yours) to mitigate environmental impacts.

As I sit at my desk, working on other projects, its become painfully obvious that I consume a lot of paper in my day-to-day work routine.  Now I’m generally an organized person, and when I say ‘consume paper’ I’m talking about the number of things I write on everyday, to keep myself organized.  Do you have a ‘post-it’ note problem?  It’s kind of like that.  I have a written task list problem.  Moving from left to right across my desk, I count 2 open notebooks, 3 file folders, 3 pads of paper, and handful of printed reports or articles waiting to be proofed and edited (yuck).

Now, I would never consume paper products like this at home (post-consumer recycled, or not) and so office paper waste has no excuse.

As it turns out, I have a suite of digital products available to ‘green’ my daily desk routines.  A paperless office is not as hard as we think, with a few quick changes to the way we work.

I think if I took the time (and I will) to study my workflow habits, I could find more efficient, more responsible ways to work at work.

Protect the Navigable Waters Protection Act
February 17, 2009, 14:23
Filed under: Environment

action“We have a federal government that is attempting to dismantle navigation rights and other environmental regulations in Canada under the pretext of rescuing the economy.” –

The Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) recognizes the importance of protecting Canadian waterways.  The act ensures environmental safe-guards and due process for development projects on our waterways.  Under the terms of the existing act, developers wanting to proceed with projects that interfere with navigation (shoreline development, bridges, dams, piers, etc.) must obtain approval from the Minister of Transport, which triggers an assessment to measure the environmental impacts of the proposed project.

On February 6th, 2009, the federal government announced amendments to NWPA, as a part of the Budget Implementation Act (Bill C-10).  The new act eliminates the need for an environmental assessment for most development projects on Canadian waterways.

This is an environmental issue.  Because the existing act includes a process to ensure a comprehensive environmental assessment, NWPA is one of the pillars of protection for rivers in Canada.  The protection granted to waterways under federal fisheries legislation is weak, and no provincial legislation exists.

Why are NWPA changes being introduced under a Budget Implementation bill?

In an effort to “stimulate the economy” and create jobs, the new act aims to streamline proposed infrastructure projects.  The new act also has little regard for our public rights and the environmental health of our waterways.  Burying these amendments in bill C-10 without public consultation is a shady move on the part of our federal government.  Take action now and encourage the Government of Canada to remove changes to NWPA from the Budget Implementation Act, and instead, bring the issue before the public for appropriate input, consultation and debate.

Take action:

1. Sign an online petition

2. Write your MP

3. Tell others

361 Things – CFL’s I Still Love You
February 3, 2009, 12:35
Filed under: 365 Things

cflIf you’ve been anywhere near a newspaper, television or the internet in the last 30 days, you’ve probably heard that CFL’s  (compact flourescent light bulbs) are under the miscrope as Health Canada tests the bulbs for potentially harmful ultraviolet rays.  The conculsions of their study aren’t likely to be released until fall 2009, and Health Canada has issued the following statement in the interim: “Even though the bulk of scientific studies to date have not identified any health-related issues, Health Canada has decided to test the bulbs to acquire reliable technical data.”

The UK’s public health agency has issued the following related statement: “The agency recommends the bulbs not be used in areas where people spend more than an hour a day within 30 cm of the bare light bulb.”

Now I take issues of health and safety with extreme consideration and mindfulness.  I’m pleased that consumer products undergo rigirous testing for the benefit of our safety.  But, I’m also not an alarmist. I spent the entire day yesterday counting the number of times my head had been within 30 centimetres of a bare light bulb… it didn’t happen.

CFL’s are environmentally friendly and long-lasting.  Here’s 4 reasons to love them:

  • They’re 75% more energy efficient and they last 10 times longer
  • Our federal government has mandated that all traditional (incandescent) bulbs be replaced with CFL’s by 2012
  • Replacing a single bulb with a CFL will keep half a ton of CO2 out of our atmosphere
  • If everyone in North America used efficient lighting we could retire 100+ average sized power plants

Short of dimmers, all of the bulbs in my house have been replaced with compact flourescent light bulbs, and I’m certainly not going to reverse my decision to bring these bulbs into my home.  This issue has drawn a tremendous amount of media attention, which has generated fear and concern, and has left us all wondering what’s best for the planet.  Until (and unless) there’s reason to believe otherwise, CFL’s are still one of the most important household carbon reduction strategies.  Still feeling nervous?  Then I challenge you to start slowly.  Replace your porch light…  and remember, it only takes one to make a difference.

362 Things – ‘Unbottle It’
February 2, 2009, 12:11
Filed under: 365 Things

siggMaude Barlow is the Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the United Nations, and for the last month she’s been touring on a personal mission to ban bottled water.

Water is a human right, and it falls into the category of ‘basic needs’, but the commercialization of water and the bottled water ‘movement’ has had a devistating effect on our planet.  I heard Maude speak in Ottawa, and since then I’ve vowed to never purchase another plastic bottle of water again.  Instead, I’ve opted to travel with a safe, sustainable stainless steel water bottle.  Here’s why:

1. Bottled water leads to water shortages

According to the Earth Policy Institute, water shortages have been reported in the Great Lakes region near water bottling plants.  Furthermore, the manufacturing of water bottles requires vast amounts of water. It takes three to five litres of water for every one-litre bottle produced.

2. Bottled contributes to climate change

The Bow River Keeper estimates that “the manufacturing and transport of one kilogram of bottled water consumes 26.88 kilograms of water (7.1 gallons) 0.849 Kilograms of fossil fuel (one litre or 0.26 gal) and emits 562 grams of greenhouse gases (1.2 pounds).”

3. Our landfills cannot support bottled water

According to a recent Toronto Sun article, “as few as 50 percent of the water bottles Torontonians consume everyday are actually being recycled. That means as many as 65 million empty plastic water bottles per year end up as garbage in a landfill waste site.”  In some communities the percentage of bottled water ending up in landfills can be as high as 80 percent.

4. Bottled water is not safer

Bottled water is regulated as a food product under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.  As such, water bottling plants are inspected on average only once every three years.  Regulation of tap water on the other hand, is far more stringent.

5. Water is a human right

The bottled water industry has worked hard to undermine our faith in public water. Canada has one of the best public drinking water systems in the world.

363 Things – Use Biodegradable Doggie Waste Bags
February 1, 2009, 08:45
Filed under: 365 Things

db_golden_retriever_puppies1I have two dogs… that’s a lot of doggie waste.  As both a canine lover and an Earth lover, there’s nothing more mind boggling to me than the use of ye-olde grocery store bag to pick up, and subsequently trash your dog waste.  Think about it… lets take something that naturally breaks down into the Earth in a quick period of time (poop), and store it in a petroleum based bag that takes a hundred years to decompose.

Picking up after your pet is part of being a responsible pet owner.  In many cities, it’s also the law.  But we’re accountable to our planet too, and storing our dog waste in anything other than biodegradable bags is Earth abuse.

By using biodegradable bags, you’re:

  • Diverting naturally biodegradable waste from our landfills
  • Reducing the production and use of polyethylene-based plastic bages
  • Supporting advances in environmental technology (bags made from corn, instead of oil)
  • Enabling the natural decomposition lifecycle of waste; 10-45 days instead of hundreds of year

364 Things – Buy Organic Fair-Trade Coffee
January 31, 2009, 19:26
Filed under: 365 Things

coffeeWhile we’re on the subject… purchasing organic, fair-trade, shade grown coffee is another way to score points – environmentally and ethically.  In 1999 it was reported that there were 108 million coffee consumers in the U.S. alone!  Coffee is traded as a commodity, and is second only to oil in commodity value.  In the import/export world, it’s liquid gold.

Why organic?

Organic coffee beans are grown and processed without the use of harsh chemicals or toxic pesticides.  When you buy organic coffee, you’re:

  • Supporting farmers who are committed to maintaining the long-term health of our planet
  • Helping preserve biodiversity

Why shade grown?

The best quality coffee comes from plants that grow slowly under the rainforest canopy.  As the demand for coffee increases, producers look for higher efficiency approaches.  Most of these approaches involve using nasty chemicals and pesticides, and promote the destruction of natural rainforest trees and undergrowth. When you buy shade grown coffee, you’re:

  • Preserving the habitat of birds, monkeys, tree frogs and other rainforest species
  • Saying “no!” to chemicals that contaminate the land, water and farm workers

Why fair-trade?

When you purchase fair-trade coffee, you’re:

  • Eliminating the middleman and providing coffee farmers with fair fixed prices, which support a reasonable standard of living (fair wages)
  • Ensuring communities benefit from fair-trade revenue (not corporations)
  • Encouraging growers to employ sustainable farming practices

Many coffee shops are now offering coffee that is shade-grown, fair-trade, and/or organic. If you don’t see it listed on the menu, ask ’em!