Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Back From Feeding the Skeeters!

Mrs THIT and I returned earlier today from spending three days at the Sharbot Lake campground.

Anyone who knows me or happened to read this blog around this time last year will be aware that as much as I try to be good to nature, nature's not real good to me. But I have to admit that this was probably the best camping trip I've taken.

We weren't familiar with the actual site. I'd been to Sharbot Lake once but had stayed at another part of the grounds.

This site was fantastic. Right on the water with, for all intents and purposes, our own private beach. There was a pair of loons feeding a young'un nearby throughout most of the day on Monday which made for a rare sight. The weather was everything you could ask for; warm but with a breeze to prevent it from being sticky and uncomfortable. We even had a full moon (or close enough to it) to add to the nighttime atmosphere.

The only drawback? Why, what else? People!

Our original neighbours were fine. Their dog barked on occasion but you should expect that. And as a dog owner, accept it.

But we had a neighbor switch on Monday. They left and were replaced in the early evening. The new neighbors left their car radio on the entire time that they set up shop. One of them had a cell phone that went off from time to time, and an ever-present cigarette dangling from his mouth.

I may not be good at camping, but I at least get the concept. Cell phones are not, and should not, be part of the deal.

In any event, those minor occurences were not enough to ruin the overall experience.

A couple of anecdotes:

a) I got some great advice from Christine at one point. While setting up part of the equipment, I needed to hammer in some stakes. I asked Christine if we had a hammer, mallet, something. She suggested I use the back of the axe head "but be careful not to smash yourself in the face with the other end". Thanks, love, I'll file that one away.

Also, when needing to cross the highway to reach a store, she directed me to NOT get hit by incoming traffic. I appreciated the reminder, as you can imagine.

b) Christine, in addition to increasing my overall wisdom, also introduced me to a rich little treat! German butter cheese! Hmmm...good! You know how I sometimes include health and/or nutrition tips and such on this blog? This isn't one of them.

All told, a great camping trip, which is something I don't say very often. Hopefully I'll be able to post a few pictures later.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pepsi Admits that Aquafina is Tap Water

This really isn't that shocking.

NEW YORK - The label on Aquafina water bottles will soon be changed to spell out that the drink comes from the same source as tap water, the brand's owner PepsiCo said Friday.

A group called Corporate Accountability International has been pressuring bottled water sellers to curb what it calls misleading marketing practices.

Aquafina is the single biggest bottled water brand, and its bottles are now labeled "P.W.S." The new labels will spell out "public water source."

"If this helps clarify the fact that the water originates from public sources, then it's a reasonable thing to do," PepsiCo (nyse: PEP - news - people ) spokeswoman Michelle Naughton said Friday.

The corporate accountability group is also pressing for similar concessions from The Coca-Cola Co. (nyse: KO - news - people ), which owns the Dasani water brand, and Nestle (other-otc: NSRGY.PK - news - people ) Waters North America, seller of Nestle Pure Life purified drinking water, which gets some of its water from municipal sources.

Dasani's Web site says that Dasani comes from local water supplies and is then filtered.

"We don't believe that consumers are confused about the source of Dasani water," Coca-Cola spokeswoman Diana Garza Ciarlante said. "The label clearly states that it is purified water."

Now watch, everyone will claim to have known this all along. But if you did, why would you be buying Aquafina rather than carrying your own refillable bottle?

I didn't buy those brands so I don't care. We buy the occasional bottle of Earth Water still, in large part because of the charitable aspect of it. They claim that the their source is spring water but for all we know, we're getting hosed.

Get it? Hosed!

Never mind...

Green Hosting

Late last year, I was looking around for a host for my football website. I had a site about Ottawa's Canadian Football League team through Geocities, but grew disatisfied with it. I wasn't paying a whole lot but for what I was paying I found the site-building tool frustrating and that took the fun out of it.

I did an extensive search for a host that would meet my needs and wants, while catering to my technical stupidity. I don't actually know a whole lot about conputers; anything I'm able to do is by trial and error. So I need the whole process kept fairly simple.

I eventually came across Host Papa.

Their product seemed to be simple, inexpensive and home grown. I gave them a try, and was very pleased.

But the inevitable happened. You know how when a CD comes out that you really want you'll see it for a good price in a store, buy it, then the next store you're in has it for $2 less? Similar deal here.

About a month after I started recreating my website, one of the newsletters I subscribe to made me aware of hostitgreen.com. You can see for yourself the service they provide.

1. Complete List of ALL Green Web Hosting Companies.
Visit them all to see which one is the best for you, or use
our unique solution. (We don't make a cent either way.)

2. Your Free "Keeping Your Site Green" Resource List.
Contains the best services for green web sites from
development to marketing and much, much more!

I had never even thought of including that in my search! Some THIT I am!

But Host Papa has recently taken care of my oversight! They now boast 100% Green Energy Web Hosting.

How do we do it?
We certainly do not have a wind turbine on the roof of our data center! Sure, it would be a neat thing to have, but that is not the case. After an energy audit by an outside provider to calculate our total electrical energy consumption from traditional sources, Hostpapa purchased "green energy tags", or certificates from a certified green energy supplier. That supplier calculates the total energy consumption of our operation and uses their suppliers of Green energy to pumps in 100% equivalent energy back into the power grid. This effectively cuts down on the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) producing energy that we normally would have required from non-green energy sources.

Good on them. I know that not everyone is a believer in Green Tags but even they were to turn out to be a complete scam, I applaud the effort.

Last point: If you're looking for a website host yourself, would consider having hostitgreen e-mail you their details, but are concerned about spam, don't be. In the 18 months or so that I've been doing this little THIT thing, I've subscribed to all kinds of newsletter and signed all kinds of petitions (my inbox has about 190 unread e-mails right now). I have yet to receive one peice of spam in that time, from hoistitgreen or anyone else.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

NewScientist: Organic Tomatoes Have More Antioxidants

According to the new findings, levels of the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol were found to be on average 79 and 97 per cent higher, respectively, in organic tomatoes. Flavonoids such as these are known antioxidants and have been linked to reduced rates of cardiovascular disease, some forms of cancer and dementia, says Alyson Mitchell, a food chemist who led the research at the University of California, Davis.

Click the picture for the full article.

I'm pleased to be coming across this. Like many individual issues of environmentalism, the benefits of eating organic food is something that some people seem to go out of their way to disprove.

I personally prefer it and I can truthfully say that I feel better since having become vegetarian and taking, on occasion, the organic option.

I don't recall coming across any speculation that eating organic might be worse for me, only that it may be no different. In that case, I've got nothing to lose. Some point to the added cost, but if I prefer the product, I'm willing to pay more for it.

As an aside, I'd like to take a moment to give Dan Quayle the finger for ruining my ability to pluralize "tomato".

Ever since his potato incident of a few years ago, I always hesitate when faced with that decision. I thought this was a common thing, but evidently not.

In any event, by the time I promise to learn it again by I'm prime minister so as to not embarass myself further.

You Can Do It. We Can Help. But We Won't.

Mrs THIT and I were discussing recently how, all things considered, the whole process of purchasing and taking possession of our little green fort has gone pretty smoothly.

Yes, the completion of our house was delayed by about six weeks, but we feel that overall we've gotten far better service across the board from all parties involved. TamarackHomes, while not perfect (who is?), is certainly light years ahead of Ashcroft. I will spend the rest of my life telling anyone within earshot that Ashcroft are just a step away from building slums and to recommend that the money spent on one of their peice of crap homes could best be used elsewhere. Everyone else from lawyers to bank staff has been a definite upgrade.

With one exception. Home Depot.

It's not that they've provided poor service. It's that they've provided NO service. It hit me the other day that they've lost close to $10,000 in business from us.

We had intended to purchase our five appliances there. We applied for their credit card and they would only authorize...$1500. That's not going t go far.

I understand why, to a degree. Christine and I don't have a great deal of debt, but we have the potential for a lot of debt; unused space on other credit cards. Still, it was a bit of a kick in the 'nards so we decided to shop elsewhere. Someone suggested Universal Appliances. We were well-served there and were given a good price.

I can set that aside, but then we decide to try Home Depot for window coverings. They weren't our first choice; we tried the places that specialize in such things (Blinds To Go, etc) but our windows are of unusual width. That created an additional cost, so we kept shopping. We liked what we saw both in selection and price at HD so we set an appointment.

We never received the phone call they promised. We were in the neighborhood once so we stopped in and they admitted they were having difficulties with that function. They suggested WE call at a specific time when the designer might be around. Sorry, I don't feel it's my responsibility to chase companies to force my business upon them.

We did eventually get a phone call. Three weeks after we'd first inquired and about a week after we made a purchase elsewhere (the name of the place escapes me now...It's in the bottom floor of Westgate Shopping Center). In their shoes, I'd have been embarassed to make that phone call.

I work for a large company so I feel somewhat qualified to say this: The bigger the organization, the thinner the link to the customer. We've had some difficulties with Bell Canada as well, but similar to problems we've had with Rogers.

Home Depot was good for one thing: A reminder that as name recognition only has so much value.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Quarterback Sack!

No matter how big a football fan I am, it warms my little treehugging heart to see Michael Vick circle the drain.

Michael Vick is the Atlanta Falcons quarterback who earlier in the year was accused of being involved in a dog-fighting operation. He denied having any involvement, claiming to not spend a lot of time at his property. This despite the compound behind his house in which nearly 70 dogs were sheltered.

Well, now he's indicted.

From Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports:

Quarterback Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons took a huge hit a week before the start of training camp.

Vick is expected to be suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after news broke Tuesday evening that Vick was indicted by federal authorities in connection with dog fighting in Virginia. The indictment followed a three-month investigation.
The NFL released a statement that both cautioned in not prejudging the case and said Vick would be evaluated under the league's personal conduct policy.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, urged the league to take "appropriate" action.
The indictment is a long way from proof of guilt. In 1999, former Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tony Martin faced money laundering charges in federal court and was found not guilty.

Vick and three other men – Purnell A. Peace, Quanis L. Phillips and Tony Taylor – were indicted on a pair of conspiracy charges that carry a total maximum of six years in prison if convicted.
"Obviously, we are disturbed by today's news from Virginia," the Falcons said through a statement issued Tuesday evening. "However, we are prepared to deal with it, and we will do the right thing for our club as the legal process plays out. We have a season to prepare for and training camp opens next week. Our plan is to continue to do everything we can to support our players and coaches."

Now, the question is how fast will Goodell react and how long will he suspend Vick? Vick has yet to be convicted of a crime or even be arrested during his six-year career, but Goodell has made player conduct his most significant issue through his first year in office.

Tennessee Titans cornerback Pacman Jones has been suspended for one year although he has yet to be convicted; Jones has been arrested or called into questioning by police at least 10 times since entering the league and faces charges over a shooting in Las Vegas in February.
Vick met with Goodell in New York, shortly after the raid on Vick's property, before the NFL draft in April. Vick told Goodell and said publicly that he never went to the house and that he was unaware of what his family and friends were doing there.

Reports by media outlets in Virginia disputed Vick's story. Witnesses said that Vick had been seen there many times. The federal indictment also lays out a much different story, saying that Vick participated in the commerce of dog fighting. The indictment said that dogs and participants were brought in from as far away as New York and Texas for fights. The indictment also specifies that the raising and training of dogs were conducted at the home. The home features a series of kennels and a small building in the back where fights were supposed to have taken place.

The indictment also lays out a detailed and ugly description of how the fights were run, including how dogs that lost fights were killed afterward, if necessary. Dogs were often shot, drowned, electrocuted or strangled if they could not otherwise be saved.

"We're talking about activity that went on for years," Pacelle said. "Yes, these are accusations. But for him to have claimed that he knew nothing about the activities there is unbelievable … that's why we think the league should suspend him under its conduct policy.

"If you're just going to wait for the judicial process, why even have a conduct policy?"

This is an area where I wish the punishment would fit the crime. Perhaps Vick, while in jail, should be forced to fight for his survival every so often against other people involved in this crime.

I also read about a little device on his property used for "breeding" referred to as a "rape stand". There again, again perhaps Vick should take a ride on one of those for a while. But then, there may be no need for a stand.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dang! A Bridesmaid AGAIN!

Kevn Eubanks is named PETA's sexiest male vegetarian. Carrie Underwood gets the female nod.

Jay Leno couldn't be happier about Eubanks’ triumph. Leno mentioned the contest on The Tonight Show several times during the final week of the contest, saying that he “want[ed Kevin] to win to bring honor to [the Tonight Show] stage.” Eubanks—who has long been known for his buff body in addition to his musical skills—is proof that turning to veggies doesn’t mean turning down muscle. “Every night before the show, I make sure [my] guitar is perfectly tuned. And every day, I do the same for my body—with healthy, vegetarian meals,” Eubanks has said. “It’s the easiest way to stay fit and feel great.”

Carrie Underwood who is celebrating her second win as “World's Sexiest Vegetarian”—she also won in PETA’s 2005 poll—is a lifelong animal lover. “I quit eating beef when I was about thirteen,” she has said. “I do it because I really love animals and it just makes me sad. … I don’t like to watch commercials where they have meat. It weirds me out.” Known to sport “V Is for Vegetarian” shirts at her concerts, the singer frequently mentions that vegetarian pizza is one of her favorite foods. What’s more, Underwood is also known to rescue stray animals.

Sun Rise?

NEW YORK, May 22 (Reuters) - Solar power should become a mainstream energy choice in three or four years as companies raise output of a key ingredient used in solar panels and as China emerges as a producer of them, according to a report by an environmental research group.
Investors have flocked to solar and other renewable energy sources amid worries about the high costs of oil and natural gas and greenhouse gas emissions. Solar is the fastest growing energy source, but still provides less than 1 percent of the world's electricity, in part because its power can cost homeowners twice as much as power from the grid.

But costs could fall 40 percent in the next few years as polysilicon becomes more available...More than a dozen companies in Europe, China, Japan, and the United States will boost production over the next few years of purified polysilicon, which helps panels convert sunlight into electricity, and is the main ingredient in semiconductor computer chips, according to the report.

In some of the world's sunniest places, like California, electricity from solar panels costs the same as power from the grid. A drop in solar panel prices could expand that to places that only get average sunlight, making solar more of a mainstream choice...

Last year, China passed the United States to become the world's third largest producer of solar panels, trailing only Germany and Japan.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

15 Green Bands and Musicians

As selected by Grist.org. The comments section names a number of perhaps overlooked contenders as well, including one band who uses a solar stage to power their instruments, the Native Earthling Band.

There are a lot of links to organizations and projects I hadn't heard of that I look forward to exploring a little more closely. Great article!

Top Canadian:

Sarah Harmer
Photo: George Pimentel / WireImage

Sarah Harmer

This Canadian singer-songwriter co-founded the environmental group PERL (Protecting Escarpment Rural Land), which is campaigning to prevent a proposed gravel development from harming the Niagara Escarpment, a wild area along the U.S.-Canadian border that includes Niagara Falls. Harmer walks the talk with her commitment to the cause -- she hiked along the Escarpment with her acoustic band to play shows and raise awareness throughout the area, a tour documented in the film Escarpment Blues.

Big Bang BBQ

The other day, I celebrated an anniversary of sorts.

The last time I "cheated" as a vegetarian was July 1st, 2006.

When Christine and I decided to try vegetarianism, I believed it would be a difficult thing for me. It hadn't been that long before that my favourite treat was running out to Bigg's for their 12 ounce steak with salad, rice and fries. When I knew in advance that I'd be going, I'd starve myseklf during the day so I could take a shot at the 16-ouncer!

For that reason, I negotiated that I would make every effort to avoid meat, but my football tailgates were off limits to that rule. I could eat whatever I wanted at those.

As it turns out, when I gave up eating meat, I lost the desire to eat meat altogether. I stopped craving it, which I didn't expect.

At tailgates though, out of courtesy (and rather than see food wasted), I would eat some of the food other people brought, meat included. But then it occured to me that I was eating food that I found, well, unappealing. Not that the person(s) offering was preparing it any differently then when I used to used to eat it like a hog, but my tastes had changed and I just stopped liking it.

So after forcing down a sausage last Canada Day (and its no more pleasant an experience at the other end either, if you follow my meaning), I just sort of made a mental note that it would be the end of that. Friends and family know now and are kind enough to not put us in an ackward position. I haven't eaten meat since.

As far as I know, anyway. We were in Manotick the other day, just out on a drive. We stopped at the mill there. I was roaming around and came about their gift shop where I spotted (to my great delight)...Ottawa style BBQ sauce!

I had not realized that Ottawa has its own style of BBQ sauce. I have no idea what that would be. Bland? ;-)

So I had to try it. I had a glance at the ingredients, found nothing with a name over 30 letters long that I couldn't pronounce and made my purchase.

But then on the way home, disaster struck.

A closer look at the ingredients revealed that the seasoning contains *gasp* anchovies!


Well, I still have to eat it now. When it comes to meat (obviously including seafood), eating it is better than wasting it. But now technically when I do my streak will be over, even though I'm sure that the level of concentration of anchovies is very small (especially since everyone hates anchovies).

I've said before that being vegetarian is a lot easier than people think? Well this sort of thing makes it a little difficult. I knew BBQ sauce went on meat, I didn't think meat went into BBQ sauce. Live and learn, I suppose, but now I wonder how often I've eaten small amounts of meat without realizing it. It appears this little lifestyle choice will require a greater degree of scrutiny than I originally thought.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Night Shifts Excluded, Of Course...

This was one of the first habits I broke when I started on my path to treehuggerness.

LONDON, June 21, 2007 -- Nearly half of all corporate PCs in the US are not regularly switched off at night, costing US businesses $1.72 billion in energy and causing emissions of 14.4 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to recently released PC Energy Awareness report.

The report combines statistics on energy usage and CO2 emissions, alongside research on behavior in the American workplace, such as whether employees are turning their PCs off at the end of the day.
The data show that American businesses are wasting energy while we sleep. A mid-sized company, which includes about 10,000 PCs, wastes more than $165,000 a year in electricity costs for computers left on overnight. In addition, by turning these computers off, an employer can keep more than 1,381 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Preventing that amount of CO2 from reaching the atmosphere would have roughly the same impact as taking 2.58 million passenger cars entirely off the road -- more cars than exist in the entire state of Maryland.

Why did I leave my computer on? So I wouldn't have to wait the excruciating 28 seconds or so for it to come back on the following morning. How, oh how, did I ever live through that hell all those years?

Thinking on it now, I used to leave my computer at home on overnight so I wouldn't have to be bothered to wait for it to come in the morning. I might need those 28 seconds for something vital.

Besides, I'd bought into the claim that turning your computer on uses up more energy than leaving it running. I've since read that's innacurate.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Now They Finally Have a Good Reason to Dance

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) - After a lifetime of brutal treatment, including walking on burning embers, Bulgaria's last three dancing bears will get to rest their paws at a mountain sanctuary, in an apparent end to the centuries-old performance tradition in the Balkans.
Bulgaria is believed to have been the last country in the Balkans where dancing bears still performed, even though the practice was outlawed in 1993, when there were 20 to 30 such bears in the country.

The three bears will join another 20 brown bears on Mount Rila at a 12-hectare sanctuary for former dancing bears about 180 kilometres south of Sofia.

"Our aim is to make their life more bearable in their remaining years," Ioana Tomescu of the Austria-based Four Paws Foundation, which created the sanctuary, told The Associated Press.

Throughout the Balkans, families, mostly among the Roma community, have long earned a living through performing bears. But the techniques to train them led the practice to be banned, and animal rights activists have moved to find the bears new homes.