The Pawstry Chef

The Pawstry Chef creates delicous dog biscuits for the – get this “expert whinemaker” in your house. Now, come on. How could you not get these for your dog after you see such clever wordsmithing? Whine Stoppers come in several fun flavours such as Barko Noir, Bonejolais, Shar-Peigne, Pinot Grrrigio and more. All use organic ingredients and come in resealable, recyclable bags. You can find Pawstry Chef biscuits at retailers across Canada, or online at K9Excel.

Ottawa: Get a free tree!

I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree. – Joyce Kilmer. Having a beautiful, spreading tree on your property is one of the best ways to enjoy nature. There are plenty of practical benefits too – shading your house in the summer and helping keep it cool; capturing and sequestering carbon, and releasing oxygen; providing privacy; getting you out there to exercise when it’s time to rake the leaves. The City of Ottawa wants to help spread the word – and the trees – around the area by giving you a free tree to plant on your property. From the website:

The Trees, Reforestation and Environmental Enhancement (TREE) Program is a four year initiative that aims to enhance the City of Ottawa’s urban and rural forests through the planting of 100,000 trees between 2007 and 2010. The TREE Program empowers Ottawa residents, businesses, community groups and schools to participate in planting trees to enhance and maintain the city’s forest cover and combat climate change.

Trees at a tree farm can run into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars, so this is an excellent deal for you and for your environment. Go pick out your tree today!

The Great Refrigerator Roundup

Do you still have Dad’s old fridge in the garage, being used as a “beer fridge” or an “overflow fridge” for the three times a year you have extra company over? If that fridge is more than ten years old, it is probably costing you well over $100 a year in electricity costs. And you can’t just throw it out, because it’s full of gadgets and CFCs and dude, have you ever tried to lift one of those things? In addition, many municipalities will levy a charge for curbside pickup of old appliances for disposal of the CFCs.

The Ontario Power Authority wants to help. Under their Great Refrigerator Roundup program, they’ll come pick up your old fridge (as long as it meets certain conditions like being over 10 years old, and still being in working condition), cart it away, and dispose of it in an environmentally friendly manner. If you’re getting a fridge picked up, they’ll also pick up smaller “secondary” appliances like the old window air conditioner units or bar fridges you’ve got kicking around in the basement, and dispose of them too.

So consider whether you’re really using that old fridge – and consider whether the electricity savings would help pay for a new, energy efficient fridge in the long run, and check out the Great Refrigerator Roundup today.

ecoWeb

There’s lots of environmental news out there. In a new feature on ecochick, I’m going to be bringing you some of my favourites of the week to let you know what else is going on in the world of green living.

Green Daily has posted a useful guide to Green Spotting: A Field Guide to Environmental Types. “…In the 21st century, green has gone mainstream. The weather is getting weirder, the kids are pissed about inheriting a steaming ball of toxic sludge from their parents, and the ex-hippies are retiring from corporate life and rediscovering their treehugging roots. Yep, nowadays, there are all kinds of ways of being eco-friendly without ever strapping on a pair of sandals. Below, a few of the more common species of modern greenie. Read more…

The Budget Ecoist knows that even when we think we’re not using lots of paper, we are. Receipts! Receipts for purchases, for bills, for taxes.. ai yi yi. But they come to our rescue with a guide on how to Organize your receipts greenily. “You can recycle your receipts along with the mixed paper recyclers either at home or the office. But what about my taxes? My files? My obsessive little piles I keep in the corner to comfort myself that “I purchase, therefore I AM!!!!” OK, well, let’s talk about bookkeeping, taxes and the like. The obsessive little piles…well, just stay strong. Read more after the link.

Inhabitat and several other websites had the news about Apple filing a solar patent. This is exceptionally cool news: Apple just filed a patent to infuse their hand-helds and computers with a thin film of solar cells, paving the way for a new generation of gadgets with battery life boosted by the sun. The patent approaches the prospect from every angle, with schematics to stack photovoltaic cells beneath the entire surface of their portables – including the screen! Not only is this ecofriendly, it would also be an excellent way to extend the sometimes unsatisfying standby battery life on Apple gadgets.

Sustainablog has your back in the event of unemployment, food shortage or just plain adventurousness, with this handy Field guide to dumpster diving. For as long as our unsustainable society insists on wasting edible food, there will be people, mindful of this tragedy, to remediate it. They are known as “dumpster divers.” Dumpster diving is a sustainable act — again, as long as our society insists on being too wasteful for sustainability. The food is there, and it is headed for a landfill. What is the logical thing to do?. Read more!

Alexis Madrigal, Science and Green Tech writer at Wired Magazine, did a very cool presentation at the 2008 Webvisions Conference. His slides on How the Internet is redefining environmentalism are posted, talking about environmental challenges and how the internet is changing the ways in which we can change the world.

And finally, the gang at EcoGeek were delighted to discover that close to nine in 10 women (88 percent) say they’d rather chat up someone with the latest fuel-efficient car versus the latest sports car. Read more in Apparently Eco-Geeks get all the girls!

The Dirt on Plastic Bags

With this week’s news that the LCBO is ditching plastic bags, it seems that people and organizations are finally starting to take notice of a certain message: Our addiction to plastic is a big, crackly, rustly, not-going-away problem. While changing our behaviour will take effort, there’s a million great reasons to do so. Here’s a primer on the challenges of plastic bags, and why you’re better off using your own bags every time.

What’s the big plastic baggy deal? Plastic bags, along with other types of plastic packaging, are everywhere, so much that we barely even notice them anymore. There are plenty of things to consider when you grab that extra bag. Plastic bags are usually “virgin” plastic, not recycled plastic, so it’s basically straight from the oil barrel to the shelf. These bags are almost always used once and only once – the recycling levels for plastics are not great (more on that below). Plastic carry bags are actively used, on average, for mere minutes before they are discarded, ending up in landfills, the bellies of animals, or getting buried in the soil. And they’re used inefficiently – one bag for your bacon, another bag for your eggs, a third for your bread. The easy access and ubiquity of these bags encourages consumers to use them without thinking twice. What’s really interesting, though, is that it’s actually easier and more convenient to carry your own sturdy reusable bags – they’ll hold more, are easier to carry, and can be used hundreds of times before they require fixing or replacement. The only issue is remembering to take them with you.

Is anybody else doing anything about plastic bags? You bet they are. The Republic of Ireland put a levy on the use of plastic bags in 2002, taxing each bag at 15 cents (euro). The Irish dropped those plastic bags like proverbial hot potatoes, going from an average of 328 plastic bags used per head to just 21. And when people got used to it and the bag usage started creeping up? The tax was raised to 22 cents. The funds raised all went to environmental programs.

They’re also banned in San Francisco, parts of Australia, some provinces in India, and will shortly be banned in China. Hong Kong is trying to cut back too, but with mixed results.

But doesn’t recycling solve the problem? Yes, plastic is recyclable – but the vast majority of it is not recycled (to the extent that plastic recyclers and recycled plastic users are facing shortages). And the recycling process is not without its issues, requiring large amounts of energy and input of other materials in order to repurpose the plastic. Wikipedia has a thorough, although scientifically way over my head, article on recycling plastic here. And the Ecology Center has a great article on 7 misconceptions about Plastic and Plastic Recycling that will likely make you look at plastic consumption in a new way.

If we stop using plastic, won’t people in the plastics industry lose their jobs? I’ll go out on a limb here and say that plastic isn’t going anywhere overnight. The jobs of those in plastic manufacturing are safe for now. However, eventually we can hope that yes, the production of virgin plastics will be severely reduced, and when that happens the people working in plastic manufacturing industries will definitely be affected. By the time that this has an impact, I have every faith that resourceful, innovative and insightful people will have long since started new industries, whether it’s effectively recycling or otherwise repurposing waste plastics or something else, which will be in place to absorb the labour force. The world has survived the demise of types of industries before, and will do so again.

All right, you’ve convinced me. What can I do? The best option is to carry your own bags. Many, many shops now sell reusable bags for low prices. It’s eco-friendly, it’s a great response to consumer demand, and (who are we kidding) it’s a great way for the store to advertise. The Loblaws chain sells a big bag with sturdy handles, made out of recycled pop bottles, for $1. Bonus: This bag is recyclable when it wears out! LUSH has a more expensive fairly traded cotton bag, made by a women’s co-operative in India. And ecochick’s already featured these neat Flip and Tumble bags that squish into a handbag-friendly ball, so that you’ll always have it with you.

Looking for more reading?

Reusablebags.com has an excellent article on the full cost of plastic bags – from production costs, using petroleum and natural gas (yes, plastic is made from petroleum!) to consumption costs (the bag is given to the consumer for “free”, but the retailer buys the bags from the manufacturer, so the reality is the cost is passed on to the consumer by adding it on to the price of your item) to disposal and litter costs (wide-ranging, and all are disturbing and long-lasting).

The Guardian Online’s Emma Brockes wrote an excellent rant about how The World Has A Big Bag Problem, in which she declares the plastic bag the successor to the cockroach in terms of its ability to outlive the human race.

LCBO ditching plastic bags

Following the lead of the NSLC and the prodding of the Ontario Premier, the LCBO has decided to phase out the use of plastic bags. The LCBO bags were heavier and thicker than “usual” shopping bags, presumably to enable you to carry 5 bottles of wine at once. (er, not that ecochick would ever need that much wine. *whistles innocently.*) As a result, they consume more resources to make and take longer to break down… if they ever did break down. So this news is an excellent step for the LCBO. They will use the current stocks of plastic bags until they run out. Following this, they will still be providing paper bags and cardboard boxes (which will be reused from wine shipments), and they will also be selling their enviro-bags made from sturdy cotton canvas for $3.95 each. These tall, compartmentalized bags are designed to carry wine, and will actually be easier to use than the plastic versions (as long as you remember to take them with you to the store.)

Prefer the heavy duty plastic bag? Simple solution – keep and reuse the ones you already have. They’re still using them til they run out, so grab them while you can.

Simple: Shoes for a Happy Planet

Found over on TreeHugger: “The nice little shoe company getting in touch with its inner hippie”, also known as Simple: A Nice Little Shoe Company. Simple is the creator of the funky ecosneak as pictured here, as well as several other shoes. All are made from wisely recycled materials, such as tires for rubber soles, organic cotton or hemp for uppers, recycled PET and more eco-friendly materials, and also use water-based glues. Many shoes are vegan- and veggie-friendly, and all their styles are drop-dead funky. They have created a wide variety of styles including mens, womens and kids flavours, sandals, sneakers, casual shoes and even bags. They also have a cool line of Stop Global Warming shoes, where they donate $5 to stopglobalwarming.org for every pair they sell. These puppies would definitely make an ecochick a style statement. Get Simple: Shoes for a Happy Planet at retailers across Canada.

Green Living Ottawa

Green Living Ottawa is a blog that does exactly what it says: Talks about environmental issues in and around the Ottawa area. It’s a fantastic resource that provides plenty of tips on how to be more eco-friendly locally, including barbecuing with local, pasture-fed beef, convenient computer recycling in Ottawa, or even providing simple commentary on what’s really “green” about some “green” bags.

Based on this site, ecochick is going to compile a list of city-based eco-sites across Canada to give people insight into what’s happening in their local area. Do you have a favourite? Send it to talk at ecochick dot ca.

Ottawa Farmers’ Market

The Ottawa Farmers’ Market is open for business again! Running on Sundays from 8-3 pm, and Thursdays from 2-7 pm after June 26, the Ottawa Farmers Market highlights local producers of fruit, vegetables, meat, arts and crafts. With weekly events, a wide range of vendors selling seasonal products, you will enjoy the experience as much as you will enjoy the products you buy there.

The Ottawa Farmers’ Market takes place at Landsdowne Park except during the Ottawa Ex, where it moves to a park around the corner. See you there!

GreenMom Spring Market

It’s May and it’s time for the Greenmom Spring Market on Saturday, May 31st from 10 am to 5 pm, at the CNIB Building in Toronto. From their website:

Enjoy a day of celebrating all the good things that we are doing to make Toronto and our world a better place! Discover new green products and services, meet like-minded families, and eat organic and healthy food all under one roof. Join us in this one-day green community shopping event and let us inspire one another creating a healthier and more sustainable future.

There will be tons of vendors there, many of whom are only usually findable online so it’s a great opportunity to meet your favourite vendors face to face – and actually get a chance to check out the products in person. There’s an organic cafe, works by local artisans, clowns, great prize giveaways like a wilderness retreat or great gift certificates… everything *except* plastic bags. Nice!

Buy tickets online in advance for $6 (and – if you don’t print the ticket but rather just show your ID at the door, you save money and paper!) or for $2 more at the door (and it’s free for your kids!) Or, you can splurge on the $15 for a Green VIP card, that will get you special offers discounts on select green and local businesses until August 31, 2008, as well as admission to the show. You can use the VIP card to shop in person or online – and you can use it at the GreenMom Spring Market!

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