Tag Archives: Environment

The plastic bag drought one year later

My still unempty bag of plastic bags

It’s Earth Day, and it’s been a year since major grocery stores decided to charge five cents a bag in an effort to rid this planet of the lightweight plastic menace. (Though subsequent events have shown that dedication to be not so absolute.)

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 kingdom for a lid

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.

To solve all three of these problems, the city of Montreal has looked at three different solutions, which are being implemented in various boroughs. The city is studying each carefully to see which is more successful.

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Recycling bottles in the metro

Yellow "contenants" bin accepts plastic bottles for recycling

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.

Recycling bin

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.

Enviro pop quiz

According to a recently released data set, what Montreal agglomeration entity (Montreal borough or demerged suburb) recycles the most of its household waste? And which recycles the least?

UPDATE: According to this chart, the most recycle-friendly (on a per-capita basis) is the sparsely-populated Senneville, thanks mostly to organic waste recovery. The most unfriendly is St. Leonard.

Shopping centre double pop quiz

Shopping centre

The owner of this giant parking lot revently announced measures to become more environmentally-friendly. What did it decide to do?

  1. Remove 100 of its 4,000 parking spaces to add trees and other greenery
  2. Require its buildings to abide by strict environmental standards and ban the use of air conditioners with open doors
  3. Add bicycle lanes to its roads
  4. Partially subsidize an STM bus that would stop inside the shopping centre and take shoppers to the metro
  5. Install recycling bins at street corners and at store entrances
  6. Give away some plants, encourage some merchants to take used batteries and run some composting workshops

Shopping centre

What was taking place when these pictures were taken?

  1. A bankruptcy sale of a major retailer
  2. A sidewalk sale
  3. An evacuation
  4. Family day

Marché Central sidewalk sale

UPDATE: So those are the answers.

Marché Central, the neighbourhood of parking lots and strip malls that represent just about everything environmentalists hate, is trying again to present itself as environmentally-friendly. For their greenwashing efforts, they got a no-questions-asked press-release-as-news article in the Courrier Bordeaux-Cartierville. (It’s also unclear if their used battery plan was dependent on Eco-Centres, who have decided to no longer accept them from retailers.)

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.

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 39

MGT #39

‘Roundabout where is this?

UPDATE: Jason gets it right below. It’s the intersection of Sources Blvd. and Riverdale Blvd. in Pierrefonds, just beyond the tracks, one of the few roundabouts on the island.

Riverdale Blvd.: Behold the suburban conformity!

Riverdale Blvd.: Behold the suburban conformity!

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.

Domaine des Brises

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.

Loblaws offers free* green bin

Loblaws green bin

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).

Nuns’ Island allergic to children, fun

Having children running around would just ruin this image.

Having children running around would just ruin this image.

Nuns’ Island residents, apparently feeling that their reputation as snobs wasn’t cartoonishly cliché enough, have declared opposition to the sound of children playing in a public park. They want the park to be made less fun so that the children won’t be so tempted to make children-fun noises and disturb all the condo construction going on.

Oh, but they say, they don’t want to close the park next to their high-rise apartment building, they just want the water shut off to save the environment!

To them I’ll point out that this picture was taken on the same street as that park.

Nuns' Island SUVs

Notice the SUV parade?

Thankfully there’s no shortage of others also ready to point out the hypocrisy and stupidity of the argument, and those include Verdun mayor Claude Trudel, who rebuffed the petition.

Party leaders, only with more hair

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.

(via Tea Makers)

Spot the green

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?