I was worried when I switched from the plastic bags to my green bin that I would have a problem with one of my main uses for plastic bags: garbage containment. Like many people I imagine, the plastic grocery bags become garbage can liners, which are then tied up and thrown in the big garbage can to head to the curb. Without this source of bags, what would I put my garbage in? I still get the occasional plastic bag from non-grocery purchases, but not enough to satisfy that habit, I thought.
As it turns out, it wasn’t so much of a problem. I just started using other types of plastic bags to store my garbage: 4L milk bags, Subway sandwich bags, bread bags, bags from take-out purchases (though I usually decline them when offered).
The only difference is that these bags are smaller, which means they need to be changed more often and they won’t fit into the large kitchen garbage can. I have them hanging off a doorknob until I can think of something better.
Even then, the number coming in is larger than the number going out. Rather than needing a new source for plastic bags, I need to find a way to reduce their consumption even further.
My beloved green recycling bin: zero cost, zero waste
I hadn’t paid attention to the matter until recently, but apparently the city of Montreal has a problem with its recycling bins.
Actually, a few problems.
The first is that after prolonged use they tended to crack and break. That’s okay though, the recycling bins themselves are recyclable, and there are new, stronger bins like the one above (after three years of use, it’s dirty, but completely intact).
The second is that they’re difficult to carry outside, requiring the use of both hands. More of an annoyance to everyone else really, requiring them to put the bin down as they open and close doors (or awkwardly wedge the bin against something to free up the other hand). But for people with limited mobility, it’s a more serious problem.
Finally, the most pressing issue, it seemed, was that papers and light containers would fly out of the recycling bins and litter the surrounding streets. Though I’m pretty good about packing my bin and haven’t seen any of my recyclables tumbling down the street, my job at the coop I live in requires me to clean up the front yard on a nearly daily basis, and it’s obvious that garbage is piling up there from somewhere, most likely other green bins.
Yellow "contenants" bin accepts plastic bottles for recycling
I noticed as I passed by the Mont-Royal metro today that a new bin has been installed next to the paper recycling. A yellow bin marked “contenants” is the STM’s first which accepts plastic and glass bottles, milk/juice cartons and aluminum cans.
Though the main issue in the metro for the past decade has been the free Metro newspaper, it’s always been a bit silly that non-paper recyclable materials couldn’t be collected in the metro system.
Hopefully installation of these bins throughout the network will come fast, and the amount of unrecyclable garbage that goes out will get greatly reduced.
UPDATE (Oct. 27): The STM has begun a three-month pilot project with such bins in “islands” (together with trash and paper recycling bins) at Mont-Royal, Champ de Mars and Snowdon. Once the project is finished in mid-January, the bins will be expanded throughout the network.
And they organized a sidewalk sale that few merchants participated in (even then it amounted to putting a rack of clothes outside and having a very bored sales rep sitting guard outside).
There are plenty of very big ways that Marché Central could reduce its environmental footprint, most of which involve discouraging car travel and excess energy consumption by retailers. But those measures would cause a revolt by the retailers and might affect their bottom line.
Marché Central believes in environmentalism, but not enough to pay for it.
The roundabout, which I crossed a while back on my bike, leads to a new development in the Parc des Rapides du Cheval Blanc that is so new the streets don’t have names, the driveways are made of gravel and grass hasn’t grown yet on the yards. I took a brief tour of the neighbourhood, noticed a lot of young families, many of Indian and south Asian descent.
I also noticed a lot of insects, reminding me that this development is encroaching on what was once their habitat.
The Rapides du Cheval Blanc is one of the 10 Eco-territories on the island of Montreal, which some might assume to mean its territory is sacred and can’t be touched. But in 2007, the borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro approved a development of 251 housing units (PDF), about half of which are in the form of single-family detached houses that all look alike. The developers had actually wanted to build 650 housing units, but pressure from the city forced them to scale back from 15 to 10 hectares. The revised project also talked a lot about “integrating” into the territory by using the same trees or something. Still, the development cut 21% of the green space out of the eco-territory.
From The Gazette’s Green Life blog: Loblaws is giving away free green shopping bins to people who buy at least $60 worth of groceries (not including alcohol and other non-food stuff) and have this coupon, until April 30.
As a regular user of the green bin, I can attest that it’s the most convenient way of hauling a medium-size load of groceries home (so long as you don’t use the stairs too much). My only quibble is that if you’re spending $60 on groceries, you’re probably not going to be able to fit it all into the bin (or if you do, it’s going to be really heavy).
From the latest episode of URLER.TV, a video interview with a guy who goes around the city, checks recycling bins for empty water bottles, then leaves a pamphlet making them feel guilty about ruining the environment by buying bottled water.
The lesson is obvious: Don’t recycle your water bottles; put them straight into the trash.
CBC’s Archives, which has good stuff but unfortunately encodes it using Windows Media, which I have to play using my choppy, buggy Quicktime plugin instead of a universal Flash player, has found archival footage of the five party leaders. As you can see, they have wacky hairstyles (Duceppe’s mullet being the most awesome) and big glasses and stuff.
Dion, Harper and Duceppe are all from the same turbulent early 90s era. Dion a political scientist commenting on the Charlottetown Accord pre-referendum. Harper from when he was a Reform Party wonk and before he was elected an MP, and Duceppe after he was elected in a by-election as the first Bloc Québécois MP (and the whole he-swore-an-oath-to-the-Queen controversy).
Layton is from a decade earlier, when he was elected in a surprise upset to Toronto City Council.
But the most interesting clip is of Elizabeth May, 30 years ago in 1978. It’s actually a feature piece for The Fifth Estate, about a debate in Nova Scotia on whether to spray the forest with insecticide to fight the spruce budworm which was devastating forests. Forestry executives were for it, wanting to protect their trees and fearing an epidemic. May was against it, saying the spray had health risks associated with it.
Curious, I looked up the Wikipedia article to see what happened with the whole debate. It seems the infestation died out on its own, as May predicted, and an environmentally-friendly insecticide was created to deal with the problem as well.
Which of the following green-coloured products are made using recycled paper or make any other claims toward environmental sustainability?
The answer, of course, is none. They’re just green-coloured.
That’s the problem with greenwashing. There is no standard body to say what environmentally-friendly claims can be made and which ones can’t. And even if there were such a body with strictly-enforced rules, nothing prevents a company from simply using green-coloured packaging to subtly fool consumers into thinking that there is an environmental benefit to choosing a green product over a non-green version.
What’s the difference between these two products? They’re both from the same company, both weigh the same and are made from the same material. The difference, if you look at the numbers at the bottom, is that the green-coloured package has sheets that are half the size as those the blue-coloured package, and offsets that by having twice as many sheets.
In other words, the only difference between the two is that the one on the left has twice as many perforations. And yet there’s a sense that, because it’s green, it’s better for the environment somehow.
The one product on the shelves that does make green claims is this jumbo package of paper towels from President’s Choice. The paper towels here are printed on made using recycled paper, and I believe once you throw them away will explode into butterflies or something.
Whose bright idea was it to associate such a complicated, easily-abused marketing concept with little more than a colour?