Monday, December 25, 2006

This is Green I Don't Need.

Even though green is a Christmas colour, and I don't recall ever stating that I'm a big fan of winter, I'd rather be knee-deep in snow right now than seeing grass everywhere.

I probably come off as a bigger believer in global warning than I really am. In all things that can not be proven "beyond the shadow of a doubt", I prefer to allow for the possibility that I'm wrong.

However, I also prefer to err on the side of caution. If I make my token effort to prevent it, and have a little fun with it in the process, and find out that global warming is actually a bunch of nonsense, what's the worst damage I can do? Help reduce pollution? That doesn't sound so bad...

But a green Christmas goes a little further in making me a true believer. I don't recall my last green Christmas. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen one before. But if my recollection is sound, all but one of the last four of five have been close. And this year, here it is.

Ah well. I'll go on considering the possibility that it's a fluke, but act as if it isn't. In fact, Mrs THIT and I are enjoying preparing the new house to be as green as possible, both in terms of being environmentally conscious and from a financial perspective. We've begun the search for our appliances and will not purchase anything that isn't Energy Star certified. If the house itself is, it doesn't make sense to add appliances that are not.

Merry Christmas to all friends and family who read this on occasion and to all the people who happen to be wandering by. And if you're among those wanderers and are offended that I'd specify Christmas instead of "holidays" or what-not, well...your skin's too thin. ;-)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Future Road Trip?

Nature Canada shares its December '06 Picture of the Month and ask the question "Do you ever wonder if animals behave any differently when they think that no one is watching?". :-)

This is probably what I'll look like next weekend while the College Football Bowl games are on. Except I won't be licking myself.

Looking as though all he needs is a remote control and a bag of chips, this lounging polar bear is conserving valuable energy resources. Polar bears from the Churchill population lose their seal-hunting platform when the ice disappears in the spring and so must fast throughout the summer and into fall until the ice forms once again. The bears gather near Cape Churchill where a combination of factors allows freeze up to occur earlier than elsewhere in the area. As many as 10,000 tourists from around the world also gather near the Cape at this time to get a close look at one of the world’s most remarkable animals.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I May Not Get To Hug This Guy Next Year!

Smart panda. Hugged me BEFORE I'd climbed the CN Tower...

While looking up old posts, I came across the stuff from last year's CN Tower climb. I checked the link to see if it was still active and not only is it active, but they're gearing up for next year's.

I'm hoping to participate again, but it's dicey. We take possession of our new place right around the same time. I don't know that I'll want to shell out coin for a trip to Toronto around then what with the expenses involved in moving from one house to another.

I'll keep an eye on it in the meantime, and I've signed up for their registration notification. If I can't, then I'll support someone who is. In fact, I'll go into the members-only portions of the Green Party sites and challenge them to do it! Perhaps they (we) can make a "meet and greet" event of it the night before or afterwards. Seems like a good idea.

Speaking of El Casa Del Treehugger, it appears to be coming along nicely. Here, Oscar inspects to make sure it's to his liking and wags his tail in approval. And if it's good enough for Oscar, it's good enough for me.

I'm Not Sure I'd Hug a Tree Frog.

A new species of tree frog named polypedates chlorophthalmus is seen in this undated handout picture released by WWF. Dozens of new species of animals and plants including catfish with protruding teeth and a tree frog with with striking bright green eyes have been found in the past year in the forest of Borneo, a WWF report said on December 19, 2006. REUTERS/Dr. Indraneil Das/WWF/Handout

I believe this follows up an article I posted earlier in the year.

JAKARTA (Reuters)(By Ed Davies) - Dozens of new species of animals and plants including a catfish with protruding teeth and a tree frog with striking bright green eyes have been found in the past year in the forests of Borneo, a WWF report said on Tuesday.

The discoveries include 30 unique fish species, two tree frog species, 16 ginger species, three tree species and one large-leafed plant species, the conservation group said.

"These discoveries reaffirm Borneo's position as one of the most important centers of biodiversity in the world," said Stuart Chapman, WWF International Coordinator of the Heart of Borneo Program.

"The more we look the more we find," he added.

Scientists had found a miniature fish - the world's second smallest vertebrate, measuring less than 1 centimeter (0.4 inches) in length and living in the acidic blackwater peat swamps of the island, the report said.

Discoveries also included six Siamese fighting fish, including one with an iridescent blue-green marking, and a catfish with protruding teeth and an adhesive belly which allows it to stick to rocks.

In terms of plants, WWF said the ginger discoveries more than doubled the entire number of the Etlingera species, while three new tree species of the genus Beilschmiedia were found.

A number of the species were found in the "Heart of Borneo," a 220,000 sq. km (85,000 sq. mile) highland area covered with equatorial rainforest in the center of the island, it said.

The report said this habitat was being threatened by the clearing of forests for rubber, palm oil and paper pulp production.

Since 1996, deforestation across Indonesia had increased to an average of 2 million hectares (5 million acres) per year and today only half of Borneo's original forest cover remained, WWF said.

"The remote and inaccessible forests in the Heart of Borneo are one of the world's final frontiers for science and many new species continue to be discovered here," added Chapman.

He said the highland forests were also key because they were the source of most of the island's major rivers, as well as acting as a natural barrier against forest fires.

The forest fires that hit parts of Borneo and Indonesia's Sumatra island during this year's dry season were the worst in a decade.

The conservation group said that it hoped that Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia, which jointly administer Borneo, would follow through on a commitment to conserve the upland area.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dave Suzuki's Comedy Club!

Well well! No one can say that the fine folks at the David Suzuki Foundation don't have a sense of humour!

As someone who enjoys messing around with Photoshop, and trying to have a little fun with this whole treehugging thing, I very much appreciate the giggle here. I get tired of the organization that can't appear to communicate in a way other than to warn of the apocalypse every other day.

Sometimes, a light-hearted approach makes for an encouraging contrast, no? If you constantly dwell on the negative, come a point you take the wind out of people's sails. I know that's the case for me, anyway.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Paper Wait.

This could leave me with MANY more trees to hug. Full story linked below:

TORONTO and PALO ALTO, Calif., Nov. 27, 2006 -- Xerox Corporation (NYSE:XRX) scientists have invented a way to make prints whose images last only a day, so that the paper can be used again and again. The technology, which is still in a preliminary state, blurs the line between paper documents and digital displays and could ultimately lead to a significant reduction in paper use.

The experimental printing technology, a collaboration between the Xerox Research Centre of Canada and PARC (Palo Alto Research Center Inc.), could someday replace printed pages that are used for just a brief time before being discarded. Xerox estimates that as many as two out of every five pages printed in the office are for what it calls "daily" use, like e-mails, Web pages and reference materials that have been printed for a single viewing.

"Despite our reliance on computers to share and process information, there is still a strong dependence on the printed page for reading and absorbing content. Of course, we'd all like to use less paper, but we know from talking with customers that many people still prefer to work with information on paper. Self-erasing documents for short-term use offers the best of both worlds," said Paul Smith, manager of XRCC's new materials design and synthesis lab.

Xerox has filed for patents on the technology, which it calls "erasable paper." It is currently part of a laboratory project that focuses on the concept of future dynamic documents.

To develop erasable paper, researchers needed to identify ways to create temporary images. The "a-ha" moment came from developing compounds that change color when they absorb a certain wavelength of light but then will gradually disappear. In its present version, the paper self-erases in about 16-24 hours and can be used multiple times.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's in You to Give.

There's something I've never done. And the opportunity just presented itself; I found out they're having a Blood Donor Clinic next Wednesday and Thursday near my work.

For some reason, I'm nervous to do it. I don't know why. Mrs THIT has donated a bunch a times in the past. And I'm no stranger to needles. I've had allergy tests done as a kid, and received shots regularly for quite some time. I don't know what those test are like now but back then they stuck all kinds of needles in you. I think one test was something like 700 shots.

Or what is 17?

Well, it was a lot. So it's not that, but I'm still nervous.

I guess I have this irrational mental picture of them starting to draw blood then being unable to stop. Next thing I know, I look like Iggy Pop.

Hmmm...Iggy looks like he's beefed up in recent months, actually...Dude's like a fine wine!

I believe I've digressed again...I'll probably go ahead with it after running it by Mrs THIT for feedback. Hopefully whoever gets my blood gets a sudden urge to turn vegetarian. Could that happen?

Speaking of that, I looked up what blood type on their website. Or at least, I looked up A+. I've always thought I was an A+. Mum, if you're out there, correct me if I'm wrong. Mind you, I've had so little to do with the A+ designation during my scholastic years (which I enjoyed so much, I extended by about a year and a half) that I'll be damned if I'll give up my only chance at an A+ without a fight even if you tell me otherwise.

Anyway, they said:

So, you’re an A. You already know that having type A blood suggests that you are reliable, a team player and may benefit from a vegetarian diet.

Did you also know that anthropologists believe that type A blood originated in Asia or the middle east between 25,000 and 15,000 BC?

Well no, of course I didn't know that! Who the hell would??

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Booster Believer!

Great Googly Moogly! Ever have this stuff?!

I'm fairly lucky in that in the area where I work, I can find a number of vegetarian food options. Still, there are days that you just don't know what you feel like having.

I forget what prompted it, but a co-worker showed me a flier he had at his desk for Booster Juice. I had a flip through and got a better feel for their product. I thought they were basically glorified milkshakes, but no way Irene!

What's with the name!! BOOSTER JUICE!!? In every smoothie you get a free booster. This free booster is a nutritional supplement. Feeling a bit run down? Choose the Cold Warrior Booster it's full of Echinacea and Goldenseal which are two of the best herbs for building your immune system. Needing a bit of extra energy? Go with our Energy Booster which is a blend of Korean ginseng and bee pollen. The boosters give the customer the enjoyment of customizing their drink. These are just two of our ten boosters which are researched and developed for us with private labeling.

Indeed? But my problem is that I usually only have a small breakfast before leaving for work, so I need something filling. No problem, Chester!

Sonic Soy Low fat soymilk, blended with blueberry, strawberry, sorbet, Wilderness Booster and Protein Booster. Get added protein and enjoy a delicious non-dairy smoothie designed for the health conscious crowd.

That's me all over, motherfu...well, whatever. If I recall correctly (always a shaky proposition) protein is one of the nutrients that they tell you to watch out for if you turn to a vegetarian diet. You may not get enough. The occasional Booster ought to help.

In any event, highly recommended. Check out their menu, learn about this "power berry" they make reference to (I worked in the produce section of a grocery store in my late teens and never heard of it), and next time you happen to walk by one of their locations in some mall, treat yourself.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Speaking of Catalogues...

Made my World Vision purchase the other night. Out of the available items for purchase, I selected the Harvest Packs:
What could be more perfect for the gardener on your list than crops to feed hungry families? Thanks to generous Canadian corporations, your gift today will provide 4 Harvest Packs for the price of one. A single Harvest Pack includes hearty seeds and sturdy tools for planting. And with each Harvest Pack, a World Vision staff person will provide training to help bring bountiful harvests of vitamin-rich vegetables, legumes, and grains for years to come. Now's your chance to help four families for the price of one.

I liked that it seemed to be a long-term solution, and cost-efficient. I know that I'm putting a lot of faith in people when I donate to a charity, and I'm willing to take that chance, but I want good bang for my buck. Anyway, ultimately, if my coin just went to pad someone's salary, at the very least I'll end up with a tax credit from the whole thing.

I found a few parts of the FAQ encouraging:

Q: How are prices determined for items in the Gift Catalogue?

A: World Vision Canada's prices for animals include training in husbandry and pen construction, pen material, vaccinations, and occasionally food for the family so the animal can survive long enough to reproduce. In addition, families are given nutrition training so they can get the most benefit from these animals.

Nutrition training and education are included in the cost of livestock, trees, seeds, and tools because World Vision seeks to bring about sustainable change. With training, families can use the animals and plants they are given to improve their children's health for years to come.

Q: Where does my money go when I purchase a gift?

A: While the majority of the purchase price goes toward buying and delivering the actual gift item, fundraising and administration costs are also built into the price of each gift in the catalogue. World Vision is an organization you can trust. 84.3% of gifts to World Vision go directly into programs that help children. 10.6% goes to fundraising services, 5.0% is allocated to administration and 0.1% is retained for future use.

Q: How are Gift Catalogue items selected?

A: Gift items are selected to help families meet pressing needs and earn household income. For example, sheep can provide milk and meat for family nutrition, manure to be used to fertilize crops, and wool which can be sold or used to make clothes. Additionally, ewes often have twins or triplets that can be sold for family income.

Q: Who receives the gifts I purchase?

A: World Vision works with community leaders to develop a fair system for distributing gifts. Families are chosen on the basis of need. Your gift will usually be part of a larger program where a number of families receive similar gifts.

Q: How are the gifts I purchase delivered?

A: Items that you choose are purchased locally. This ensures the products (for example, fruit trees) are well-suited to the local environment. Buying locally also supports the local economy and keeps transportation costs to a minimum.

Q: What if World Vision raises more funds than expected for a particular item?

A: Should the total amount of gifts exceed funding needs for a particular item, your gift will either provide similar assistance to people in different communities or it will be used to meet additional needs in that project.

Now, it would be nice to see the results of having made the purchase, but I understand that's unrealistic.

Victoria's Secret is a Little Less Naughty.

As something of a follow-up to an earlier post in which Forest Ethics claimed censorship in regards to a magazine (I believe Rolling Stone) refusing to run one of their ads, those very same Forest Ethics folks have now proudly sent out an e-mail celebrating a significant victory.

The message they wanted to run was about how much (and the kind of) paper Victoria's Secret catalogs used. Well, they've finally reached a compromise, it appears:

Today, Victoria's Secret's parent company, Limited Brands, announced it will stop using paper from Endangered Forests like critical caribou habitat in the Albertan Foothills for its catalog. After two years of campaigning, Victoria's Secret started to and will continue to work to phase out the use of any Endangered Forests products. The company has ensured that at least 10 percent post-consumer waste paper will be used in it's main catalog.
When we began this campaign, two years ago, Victoria's Secret was printing 395 million catalogs every year on paper that contained NO recycled content. We made it clear that we were not going to stand by and watch one of our planet's most vital resources be destroyed to sell panties.
The impact of Victoria's Secret's decision will be seen in the protection of North America's Great Boreal Forest, which contains 25% of the world's remaining intact forest. Stretching from Alaska to Canada's Atlantic coast, the Boreal is a key regulator of global climate, providing one of our first lines of defense against global warming. It is also a vital source of clean air and water, and provides critical habitat for many species from endangered mountain caribou and to half of North America's songbirds.

A vast majority of catalogs and junk mail that flood U.S. households come directly from the Boreal Forest. Currently, the Boreal is being logged at a rate of two acres per minute, 24 hours a day. And nearly 50% of that logging is going to produce paper. Victoria's Secret's new policy prohibits immediately paper coming from the Albertan Foothills and is working to end sourcing paper fiber from other Endangered Forests. The policy sets a new standard for the catalog industry.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wal-Mart's Bright Idea.

I'd heard a few times that Wal-Mart was making a strong effort to go green. This would be quite the achievement if they could pull it off.

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Nov. 30, 2006 - Wal-Mart has announced an ambitious campaign to sell 100 million compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) at its Wal-Mart and Sam's Club locations by the end of 2007.

If achieved, this goal has the potential to save customers as much as $3 billion in electrical costs over the life of the CFLs. In addition to saving money for consumers, these innovative products conserve up to 75 percent more energy than traditional light bulbs and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

"We have a fundamental belief that all families should have access to affordable, sustainable goods, and compact fluorescent light bulbs are a great way for our customers to save money," Wal-Mart Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Sustainability Andy Ruben said. "The working families and small businesses that are our customers will not only save money when shopping with us, but also on their electric bills, all the while benefiting the environment."

The roll-out plan includes interactive displays at 100 select Wal-Mart stores beginning in January to help customers choose which CFLs best fit their needs (an online savings calculator is currently available online); educational displays to allow customers to compare qualities and styles; increased shelf space with prominent displays in the lighting aisles; marketing promotions; and employee education as well as a competition to encourage them associates to generate CFL sales.

With nearly 20 percent of all home electric costs stemming from lighting alone, CFLs can have tremendous benefits. Converting one conventional 60W bulb to a 13W CFL can save: $30 in electric costs over its lifetime; 10 conventional bulbs from being produced, transported and discarded in a landfill; 220 lbs. of coal from being burned; and 450 lbs. of greenhouse gases from reaching the air. The average home has more than 30 compatible sockets, which means even more potential savings.

"We realize this is a lofty aspiration, but if we reach our goal of selling 100 million CFLs by the end of 2007, the results will be staggering," Ruben added. "Over the life of those bulbs, $3 billion can be saved in electrical costs and 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gases can be prevented from entering our atmosphere. This change is comparable to taking 700,000 cars off the road, or powering 450,000 single-family homes. Compact fluorescent light bulbs will change the way consumers look at energy efficient products because not only can they benefit directly, but also feel good about it."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Be Annoying For A Good Cause.

That I can do.

Just about every animal rights charity has sent out e-mails asking recipients to purchase some of their merchandise as a Christmas gift, to sign up a friend/relative/acquaintance/co-worker/homeless person to a membership as a gift, or send one of their e-cards. I don't have the coin to do the first two for everyone I would like to, and while many of the e-cards are quite attractive, I'd be concerned about the people I send them to suddenly starting to receive unwanted e-mails.

Environmental Defence takes a slightly different path. They suggest sending a Christmas card to Canada's top 10 greenhouse gas polluters.

Done and done. Ho ho ho!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bottom Line: They're All Bad.

The Newfoundland Marten is an endangered species. Photo: Vidcraft Productions

Some specifics on terminology from Environment Canada's "You Asked Us" section. I hadn't asked, but it's good to know:

Is there a difference between a species being threatened, at risk or endangered, or can these terms be used interchangeably?

In everyday language, the term 'endangered species' is often used to refer to species that are at some level of risk of becoming extinct (no longer existing anywhere). However, in Canada there is a committee of experts that assesses and designates which wild species are in some danger of disappearing from Canada – the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). COSEWIC has adopted a system of categorization used to determine the level of risk a certain species falls under.

Under COSEWIC, a species at risk is defined as a species that is extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern. Therefore, when someone refers to a species as threatened or endangered, these are both considered species at risk.

The terms threatened and endangered, however, each have a different meaning under COSEWIC, and should not be used interchangeably.

According to COSEWIC wildlife species definition and status categories, a species with the status of endangered is a wildlife species facing imminent extirpation (no longer existing in the wild in Canada, but occurring elsewhere) or extinction. An endangered species is considered to be at a greater risk of extinction or extirpation than a species designated as threatened, which is defined as a wildlife species likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed.

Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), there are currently 386 species that are at risk in Canada, of which 167 are endangered and 112 are threatened.

In North America, there may be some confusion because there are some differences in terminology between Canada and the United States. Similar to Canada's SARA, the United States' Endangered Species Act (ESA) designates a different meaning between the terms endangered and threatened. Like COSEWIC definitions, the ESA considers an endangered species (in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range) at more of a risk than a threatened species (likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range). However, unlike its Canadian counterpart, the ESA considers 'species at risk' a general term for listed species as well as unlisted ones that are declining in population.

Even The Person Who Has Everything Doesn't Have These.

Granted, they might not WANT them, either, quite frankly. I just found them interesting and practical-sounding. They, among others, were included in an Ottawa Citizen article in yesterdays' edition entitled "Go Greener with Gadgets".

And no, I'm trying to pass along gift ideas for myself. ;-)

Sidewinder Charger: The SideWinder charger is the world's smallest, lightest, and most powerful portable cell phone charger available. Weighs only 2 1/2 ounces and puts out power greater than a plug-in charger. Ideal for any situation away from a traditional power source and you need to complete a call. 2 minutes of charging equals over 6 minutes of talk time, even more standby time. The SideWinder also contains a powerful LED light that runs over 5 minutes with NO BATTERIES and only 30 seconds of charging!

Solar Ovens: Easy to use, easy to carry (the oven weighs only 10 pounds), wind and weather resistant, the Sport is the perfect addition to camping trips, beach parties, fishing trips, back yard barbecues and everyday cooking. You no longer have to pack heavy and messy charcoal or flammable fluids. Using the Sport keeps the heat out of the kitchen and takes advantage of free sun power.

Designed by solar engineers to be used in sun rich but fuel poor areas in the world to improve the quality of life and nutrition of some of the 2.4 billion people who lack adequate cooking fuel, the Sport is also captivating U.S. consumers. Constructed of post-consumer recycled plastic pop bottles, aluminum and state of the art insulation, it is efficient, environmentally friendly, cost effective and fun to use.

The Centameter: The Centameter acts as an 'electricity speedometer' in the home, building awareness of electricity cost on a real-time basis. Confirm at a glance that nothing has been left on when on your way out of the house. Identify the high power consuming devices, and minimize their operation accordingly.

If the Centameter indicates that electricity costs are too high, take control. Check the home to find out what is costing you money, and decide what is worth keeping on.