Wednesday, January 31, 2007

10 Green Travel Tips

As per the December/January issue of Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel magazine. I already do a couple of these, and most are really just common sense, but it doesn't always jump out at you to do them:

1. Electric devices drain energy even when not in use, so before you leave home, unplug your computer, appliances and TVs. Also, adjust your thermostat and lower your hot water heater.

2. Consider the train instead a short-haul flight. If you must fly, go with direct flights if you can. Take off and landings account for a large portion of fuel use and emissions.

3. Forget disposable products; no single-use camera and take out meals with wasteful packaging. Refill a water bottle from a fountain.

4. Borrow and lend with friends the seldom-used travel gear – tents, beach chairs and voltage converters. Offer guidebooks to other travelers or leave them at the hotel for future guests. Souvenirs that look kitschy and fun on the shelf often end up in landfills.

5. Ask your waiter what’s local and choose something produced nearby instead of something that had to be trucked or flown in.

6. Treat your hotel room like it’s your own house – turn off the lights and lower the air when you leave.

7. Let the hotel staff know that you are okay reusing your towels and sheets a few days in a row.

8. Ditch the car – walking, riding a bike, and taking public transportation are all better than driving.

9. Use rechargeable gadgets that have less environmental impact than ones that require disposable batteries.

10. Hotels, resorts, airlines and tour companies actually do read customer comment cards. Take a moment to let them know how you feel about their recycling programs (or lack thereof).

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I Love You...Warts and All.

Say "I love you - warts and all!" Remember your partner with a special Valentine's Day wildlife adoption care of African Wildlife Foundation.

Just go to to adopt our wonderfully huggable plush warthog.

Sounds like a great strategy! What could possibly go wrong? ;-)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Berlin zoo employee Thomas Doerflein plays with polar bear cub Knut in this undated picture, released on January 24, 2007. Knut, born on December 5, 2006, has had to be hand fed by Doerflein after its mother Tosca refused the baby. EDITORIAL USE ONLY REUTERS/Handout (GERMANY)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Moratorium on Inconvenient Truth

So much for those that felt that the movie should be shown in schools. It really shouldn't be surprising that someone would find a reason to disagree.

This week in Federal Way schools, it got a lot more inconvenient to show one of the top-grossing documentaries in U.S. history, the global-warming alert "An Inconvenient Truth."

After a parent who supports the teaching of creationism and opposes sex education complained about the film, the Federal Way School Board on Tuesday placed what it labeled a moratorium on showing the film. The movie consists largely of a computer presentation by former Vice President Al Gore recounting scientists' findings.

"Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher," said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. "The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. ... The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."

Hardison's e-mail to the School Board prompted board member David Larson to propose the moratorium Tuesday night.

"Somebody could say you're killing free speech, and my retort to them would be we're encouraging free speech," said Larson, a lawyer. "The beauty of our society is we allow debate."

School Board members adopted a three-point policy that says teachers who want to show the movie must ensure that a "credible, legitimate opposing view will be presented," that they must get the OK of the principal and the superintendent, and that any teachers who have shown the film must now present an "opposing view."

The requirement to represent another side follows district policy to represent both sides of a controversial issue, board President Ed Barney said.

"What is purported in this movie is, 'This is what is happening. Period. That is fact,' " Barney said.

Students should hear the perspective of global-warming skeptics and then make up their minds, he said. After they do, "if they think driving around in cars is going to kill us all, that's fine, that's their choice."

Full article from

That's funny, I didn't need anyone to show me an opposing viewpoint to form my opinion that many people involved in organized religion are paranoid, narrow-minded, judgemental hypocrites. I came away with that impression just from my personal experience with them.

These kids can make that same disctinction from watching the movie. If it sounds like crap to them, they simply won't accept it. On the other hand, they're used to being force-fed turning water into wine and walking on water, so perhaps I'm giving them too much credit. Not that I'm blaming them for not being allowed to think for themselves, of course.

I'd love to know if this same concept of equal time being preached here by Frosty is applied to teaching evolution? I have a feeling that Adam and Eve get a lot more face time there than Darwin.

Dell Leads by Example


LAS VEGAS, Jan. 10, 2007 — Dell Computer has announced a global carbon-neutral initiative that plants trees for customers to offset the carbon impact of electricity required to power their systems.

"The customer experience starts with receiving the best value and continues with the knowledge that we are working with our customers to protect the environment throughout the life of their system," said company chairman Michael Dell at the Consumer Electronics Show here. “Programs like 'Plant a Tree for Me' and our global recycling efforts empower our customers to participate with us in making a difference. It is our hope that other companies in our industry will join us to improve the environment that we all share.”

Dell says it is the first global technology company to offer customers the opportunity to offset the emissions associated with the electricity used to power their computers through its ‘Plant a Tree for Me’ program. Dell is partnering with The Conservation Fund and, nonprofit organizations that will use the funds to plant trees in sustainably managed forests, absorbing carbon dioxide released in the atmosphere from generated electricity. The company said that 100 percent of the donations received by the “Plant a Tree for Me” program will be used by partners to facilitate planting trees.

A customer donation of $2 for a notebook and $6 for a desktop will go toward the planting of trees which will absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, offsetting the equivalent emissions resulting from the production of electricity used during the average three-year use of a computer.

The program is available now to Dell’s U.S. consumer customers making new computer purchases. It will be available to any U.S. consumer for any brand of computer in February and available to global consumers in April.

Dell also launched a new Web site ,, which highlights its environmental responsibility programs. The site contains information on Dell’s approach to environmental leadership, links to in-depth information on environmental programs and policies found throughout The site also contains an “energy counter” that tracks the accumulated energy and carbon savings impact enabled by Energy Smart features on Dell products.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Crib Colours

I was asked below if that was a picture of our new house that I posted. It was actually a graphic from the Tamarack website, but when we found out last week what our colour scheme would be, we noticed that the house next door to the model happened to have been built with it.

I took a picture of that house just a split second before its inhabitants happened to walk out. I'm sure they'd wonder why a total strange is photographing their house if they saw me take the picture, so I narrolwy avoided being seen.

This is what our new place will end up looking like:

As you can imagine, the closer the completion date gets the more we're looking forward to it.

Why Run When You Can Walk?

Well, earlier I lamented the fact that I likely would not be able to participate in the CN Tower Climb because of our move. But if I can't climb, maybe I can walk.

The National Capital Marathon takes place on the weekend of May 26th and 27th. I don't know if can hoof it for 10KM, but they do have a 5KM option.

Now, those of you who know me know I'm lazy. For those of you who don't, I'm telling you. And even that is an effort.

Being lazy is not as easy as it sounds! When you're lazy, EVERYTHING is an effort. In fact, getting this far into this post has put me in a mood for a little nap. I'd do that right now, but I'm just too lazy to walk all the way to the bedroom.

Lazy people like me need a reason to move. I'll be damned if I'll walk 5KM just "because it's there". It's there every day, when you get right down to it.

But I was made aware that the fine folks behind the Isaac Foundation have a fundraiser planned around this, so all of a sudden it's become sort of tempting. Cripes, after we move into the new place, walking will be about all I can afford anyway, so I might as well make myself useful while I'm at it.

This one will get strong consideration as the date gets closer. The marathon is quite a large event and it'd be interesting to take part in it.

Stick That in Your Fireplace and Smoke it!

This is a product I came across in the Eco Options magazine described below. It has a double-benefit and I find it very clever, so I didn't want anyone to miss it.

Java Products Corporation has introduced Java-Log, an innovative new firelog made from 100 per cent recycled spent coffee grounds that burns brighter and more beautifully than sawdust firelogslace.

Java-Log burns for up to three hours, producing higher, brighter, and more consistent flames than wood, while also releasing a faint, sweet aroma. The log produces 25 per cent more energy and emits over three times the flame capacity (per unit of wood) compared to wood, for a better, cleaner flame.
Java-Log generates 14 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions than sawdust firelogs, which could result in a reduction of up to four million kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions per year in North America. And the environmental advantages of Java-Log are apparent, not just in the product, but in its packaging. Java-Logs are packaged in environmentally friendly brown paper wrap that can be burned safely in a fireplace.

The product benefits the environment using the world’s most consumed beverage. Turning recycled, spent coffee grounds into reusable energy-based fuels means a reduction in landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Home Depot's Eco Options

Last week, Mrs THIT and I were shopping for our new appliances. Or rather, Mrs THIT had shopped previously, decided on everything, and took me to Home Depot to show me what I would like.

I kid. We had the same priorities and colour choices, but I'll admit I did not know how expensive those damn things could get. And why should I pay so much for an oven when I never use it?? ;-)

Anyway, on our way out, my green-hunting eye spotted a stack of magazines by the cash registers. While Christine was going through the self-serve cash (Have you seen these?! Amazing!), I perused said magazine.

It's called "Eco Options" and as the link will demonstrate, it can be viewed online as well.

The information in there is hardly ground-breaking (though I did learn a few things about bamboo. Little did I know there was anything to learn about bamboo!), but it's laid out quite nicely and clearly for those who aren't really knowledgeable about such things (something I can relate to).

And it's a freebie, so what the hell? Gave me something to flip through at the gym the next night.

Arguably as important was their tendency to highlight potential money savings from trying their tips or featured products. I'm a big believer in that. If you switch to CFL's, you can't see your impact on the environment. But you can see it on your power bill and no doubt that's part of the encouragement for many people. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a factor for me.

In any event, if you happen to walk through a Home Depot store, by all means grab a copy for yourself. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Speaking of CFL's, we recently had to have some wiring repaired here for a light fixture that didn't work. That's now done, but the need for bulbs to match caused us to use the two CFL's we had left. That makes six around the old place now (though two are in lamps and therefore coming with us). The person moving in continues to get greener and greener without realizing it.

As for us, we're apparently going gray. We visited El Casa again this past weekend to find a couple of walls standing now. Not all of them, but a couple. It's a start. And while we were there, Christine also wanted to visit the model in order to measure windows.

The saleslady there told me that by now our brick selection should have been made, which was
something we'd stressed over a little. We didn't really dig the one used for the model...

...but we're told that for us the brick will actually be gray (though it appears almost brownish in some light, strange as that may be to imagine) with beige siding.

At least they're real colours. None of that "cream / eggshell / pearl / bone" nonsense from before...

Truly, we're quite pleased. There were only four colour combination options we could have ended up with and the one we're getting was a close second. Options three and four fell well behind. Overall, we're finding that we're quite fortunate with this entire experience and we're hoping that holds true just a couple more months.

Friday, January 12, 2007

I Knew I Liked these Guys.

OTTAWA, Jan. 9 /CNW Telbec/ - The Green Party says Canadians
deserve a break - a real break, not the paltry two weeks'
annual leave now given to most of the country's workers.
The party is calling on the federal government to increase
the Canadian worker's paid vacation time to a minimum four
weeks, the standard entitlement in the European Union and also
in non-EU nations such as Australia.
A significant number of countries have even higher standards
than the proposed four-week minimum and their economies outperform
Canada's in both productivity and international competitiveness,
the party says.
"The citizens of Denmark, Ireland and Holland enjoy much higher
labour standards and those countries have lower rates of unemployment
than Canada, "said Green Party labour critic Richard Pereira. "This
means lower social costs to the country as a whole."
He said that Scandinavian countries have the world's highest labour
and social standards but still rank at the top in international
Recent studies show that a growing number of Canadians are not taking
their full vacation - or any vacation at all - and are putting in
more hours of unpaid overtime. Meanwhile, workplace stress-related
illness adds an
estimated $5 billion a year to the cost of running
Canada's already
overburdened health care system, according to the
National Work-Life Conflict
Study produced for Health Canada.
Pereira said that the increasing prevalence of precarious and
temporary employment situations, often without either benefits or
long-term pensions, is another area that must be addressed to halt
the steady deterioration of working conditions and reduce unacceptably
high levels of poverty in Canada.

All right!! More time for me to go camping! :-)

I don't want to give the wrong impression though. I don't support these guys because they want to give me more vacation time and reduce the length of the work week. That would be a rather ridiculous reason to vote for a party.

For me, it's about fighting the disease instead of the symptom. That's why I highlighted a part in italics about taking pressure off the health care system.

When you are losing money, you don't just have the option to try to find ways to bring in more. You can also reduce your expenses. This is what is suggested in this example.

I once heard someone say that the stance is insane because you can't help having people get sick. Of course people will get sick. To suggest otherwise is absurd.

But if you can attack the preventable stuff, why would you not?

The former Green leader, Jim Harris, occasionally gave the example of how the rate of asthma in children has increased dramatically. Attack the cause and kill two birds with one stone; a healthier population and a healthier system.

I don't know...makes sense to me, anyway.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Recovering Species: The Gym Rat!

Statistics show that it's 960% easier to break a good habit than to start one.

Of course, I totally made up that statistic, but it feels about right.

About ten years ago I started going to the gym, and struggled to get in the habit. But I eventually did manage it and my regular gym visits became sacred. I would plan around them instead of trying to find excuses to avoid them.

Along the way I've given up on it, started again...usually my attendance is vanity-driven. If I started looking a little too much like this guy...

...I'd get myself back in there. For a while.

But having become vegetarian, weight gain is not really an issue for me. I'm fortunate enough to have a fairly rapid metabolism, so I don't pork up too much. Therefore, if weight gain isn't an issue without having to go to the gym, then I need another motivator.

I had that last year. When I signed up for my CN Tower Climb, I saw the wisdom in preparing for the event. I renewed my dedication to gym attendance and made the stairmaster my b!tch. Ha! Who calls himself "master" now, bucko?!!

Then it finally dawned on me! I'm moving April 23rd! That requires heavy lifting!

So I'm going to become a mini-powerhouse! Grrrrrrr!! Starting January 23rd, I'm giving myself three months to beef up (figuratively. And cleanly).

Between now and then, I'll dig up my old documentation on the subject. I used to buy Men's Health Magazine and kept a number of articles with good tips and such. I want to find more nutritional advise as well. Besides, that extra couple of weeks will give the new year's resolutioners time to filter out.

So that's it! For that next couple of months at least, I have my motivation! I'm going to go from this... this...

Huh...except I won't wear chain mail on my head.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Bahgdad Burning.

I tend to steer away from world politics on this blog, but I came across a posting on the Green Party members mailing list that I felt was too interesting to ignore.

From time to time, those defending the war in Iraq will make the case that the citizens are better off now than they were with Saddam in power. One such citizen disagrees strongly.

You know your country is in trouble when:
  1. The UN has to open a special branch just to keep track of the chaos and bloodshed, UNAMI.
  2. Abovementioned branch cannot be run from your country.
  3. The politicians who worked to put your country in this sorry state can no longer be found inside of, or anywhere near, its borders.
  4. The only thing the US and Iran can agree about is the deteriorating state of your nation.
  5. An 8-year war and 13-year blockade are looking like the country's 'Golden Years'.
  6. Your country is purportedly 'selling' 2 million barrels of oil a day, but you are standing in line for 4 hours for black market gasoline for the generator.
  7. For every 5 hours of no electricity, you get one hour of public electricity and then the government announces it's going to cut back on providing that hour.
  8. Politicians who supported the war spend tv time debating whether it is 'sectarian bloodshed' or 'civil war'.
  9. People consider themselves lucky if they can actually identify the corpse of the relative that's been missing for two weeks.
That is Iraq right now. The Americans have done a fine job of working to break it apart. This last year has nearly everyone convinced that that was the plan right from the start. There were too many blunders for them to actually have been, simply, blunders. The 'mistakes' were too catastrophic. The people the Bush administration chose to support and promote were openly and publicly terrible- from the conman and embezzler Chalabi, to the terrorist Jaffari, to the militia man Maliki. The decisions, like disbanding the Iraqi army, abolishing the original constitution, and allowing militias to take over Iraqi security were too damaging to be anything but intentional.

Full blog.

New German Community Models Car-Free Living.

Some interesting numbers are revealed in the article below. Click on the writer's name for the full version.

Welcome to Germany's best-known environmentally friendly neighborhood and a successful experiment in green urban living. The Vauban development - 2,000 new homes on a former military base 10 minutes by bike from the heart of Freiburg - has put into practice many ideas that were once dismissed as eco-fantasy but which are now moving to the center of public policy.

With gas prices well above $6 per gallon across much of the continent, Vauban is striking a chord in Western Europe as communities encourage people to be less car-dependent.

There are numerous incentives for Vauban's 4,700 residents to live car-free: Carpoolers get free yearly tramway passes, while parking spots - available only in a garage at the neighborhood's edge - go for €17,500 (US$23,000). Forty percent of residents have bought spaces, many just for the benefit of their visiting guests.

As a result, the car-ownership rate in Vauban is only 150 per 1,000 inhabitants, compared with 430 per 1,000 inhabitants in Freiburg proper.

In contrast, the US average is 640 household vehicles per 1,000 residents. But some cities - such as Davis, Calif., where 17 percent of residents commute by bike - have pioneered a car-free lifestyle that is similar to Vauban's model.

Dave's Amazing Ability to Read Minds!

As Mrs THIT and I are preparing for our big move into El casa Del Treehugger, we also are exploring the opportunity to upgrade on appliances and techie stuff. Or at least bring them up to date. The Canuckoscope was, in truth, the least of our priorities but we've been exploring options for the one that's obviously most important.

That's right. The television.

I don't personally watch that much TV. My viewing is pretty well restricted to watching the Redskins lose wrestling. Still, both are pretty spectacular on a 40+ inch TV, no doubt. Christine watches many dramas like the 4,912 versions of Law & Order and CSI, but also digs her Nascar. Again, a large TV is pretty Nascar-friendly.

I hate Nascar.

Now Christine having scuttled my idea of having an Imax screen installed, we began to explore more reasonable options. And who would pipe in but my main man, David Suzuki, in his most recent newsletter:

...But one of the biggest ticket holiday sellers this year will likely be one of the biggest energy hogs too. Giant flat-screen TVs are all the rage and with that increase in size comes an increase in power consumption. LCD displays, while generally more efficient than old CRT displays, are getting much, much larger, often negating any energy savings. And plasma televisions, which use a different technology, are generally far less efficient. In fact, some plasma TVs can use hundreds of watts of power, effectively becoming one of the biggest energy consumers in your home.

So choose carefully this Christmas and look for the Energy Star label. Technology can help reduce your environmental footprint, but it can also make you a Bigfoot. If you aren’t careful, you may end up with the television equivalent of an SUV in your living room. And that isn’t good for anyone.

We already were looking for something Energy Star labelled, but had been looking at plasma televisions specifically. We were told that plasma is better suited for sports viewing but that on the other hand they may have a shorter life. That's a 1-1 tie, but perhaps the comment above will win the battle for LCD.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Behold The Canuckoscope!!

Yeah, dawg! Got me a new machine for saving the world!

Note: True, the monitor was not included (which doesn't matter, because we'd bought a new one fairly recently), but my keyboard is in reverse; my keys are dark and the rest is light.

I had to take the plunge. Laying in bed early on december 24th with the mrs, seeking out deals on appliances for El casa Del Treehugger, I came across that sweetheart among the boxing day sales. Not usually one to look real hard at those, I was on that one like Michael Jackson on a toddler.

Hey, I was still saving the planet with 128MB of RAM! That's like starting your day without a cup of lovely organic, fairly-traded coffee. Now, the new Canuckoscope's got 1GB and, as you might expect, the difference is staggering.

I might have expected it too, if I actually knew what the hell I was talking about. I don't even know for certain that I said that right. Perhaps I should start a blog on being less of a computer dumb-ass.

I admit to having neglected this place a little bit over the holidays, though it's for a slightly larger reason that diving head first into organic, fairly-traded chocolate (and port. hmmm...port...).

See, throughout December, the only communications you get from charitable organizations are in regards to making yet another donation. It was going to be my last chance in 2006! No kidding. But I gather making it January 3rd would have had much the same impact.

If anyone from these fine organizations is reading, I'm going to ask for my 2007 Christmas present right now; turn it down a notch. I think I received in the neighborhood of four or five e-mails from Defenders of Wildlife in particular. Come on, man. Not exactly picking the best time of year either, are we??

So relax a spell and drink some organic, fairly-traded eggnog (if there's such a thing...I still have a lot to learn) and enjoy the holidays.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Resolution, Schmesolution.

I don't get into this whole new year's resolution thing. Not that I'm perfect by any stretch but in the past, like a lot of people, I'd think of something, hold true to it for about a week, then cave. But I'm going to set one this year, and I think I know how I'm going to go about it.

I believe the reason that many resolutions fail is because they're attempts to change long-term habits; the best example being someone trying to quit smoking. Or lose weight. I was telling Christine last night that we can expect our gym visits to be a little more hectic over the next two months while the "resolutioners" come and go.

My approach will be to resolve to do one thing, and do it once. I can certainly do it more than once, but the actual resolution is to do at least accomplish it one time. I think that's more manageable, and I think I know what I'm going to do.

Early last week, I upgraded the other website that I run. It's about football in the Ottawa region. In updating it this morning, I had to look up information on players at the University of McGill and came across this story from mid-December about...

Strachan Hartley is a member of an athletic family who is young, smart and hard-working - then he was struck by non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He hasn't let the disease overcome him.
"Strachan was first diagnosed with cancer last year during our final rotations of medical school. While the rest of the class was studying about how to save patients' lives, Strachan was struggling to save his own while taking the same classes as everyone else. Strachan endured more than six months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but still managed to graduate with the rest of the class."

Not only did Hartley graduate after being advised to drop out by McGill's dean of students - he managed to graduate in the top 15 per cent of his class.
Hartley is hoping also that his fight will inspire others to give blood or to donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or the Terry Fox Foundation. All hospital blood-bank supplies are low at this time of year, but for doctors to find a match for patients such as Hartley, it isn't a simple matter of finding the right blood type - doctors also have to find the right combination of antibodies. That's why it's also important for potential donors to sign up for the stem-cell donor registry.

"Giving blood is so simple," Hartley said. "Whereas many life-saving or life-changing events are difficult or time-consuming, giving blood takes only minutes and makes a tremendous difference in people's lives. Thousands of people in Quebec depend on it and it is just so easy to do. Similarly, registering as a stem-cell donor takes only a few minutes and a blood sample could, literally, be the difference between life and death for someone. Saving a life is a pretty cool and rewarding thing to be able to do."

Okay. You've got yourself a deal. I had planned on doing something similar recently, but it slipped my mind a little, I struggled to fit it in my work schedule, and it didn't happen. Well, it's now my new year's resolution. I'm still nervous, for no good reason that I can pinpoint, but I'll do it anyway. In light of Mr Hartley's accomplishments, I should probably overcome my concern of ending up looking like Iggy Pop.

Oh, and I've begun the process of collecting nickels for World Vision. Like most such things, I wish that I were better able to see the effects of my contribution, and believe strongly that seeing such an effect would greatly encourage fund-raising, but as stated previously, I doubt I'll miss a handful of nickels a week.