Friday, November 30, 2007

Recycled Toilet Paper?

What a lovely image this creates. recently reviewed different brands of butt-wad made with various levels of recycled content. The perception of using recycled toilet paper is probably that it would not be unlike going all the way back to nature and using tree bark to clean the crack, but apparently one brand stands out above the rest.

Drum roll...
Seventh Generation Double Roll
2 ply/ 400 sheets per roll/ 4.5"x4" sheet/ 200 sq. ft.
$3.99 for a 4-pack at Whole Foods
Recycled content: 100 percent
Post-consumer recycled content: 80 percent minimum
Color: white (processed without chlorine)
Pattern: flowers
Absorbency: 4.1 out of 5 (9 reviewers)
Overall comfort: 4.4 out of 5 (9 reviewers)

Some reviewers questioned whether this roll was even recycled -- quite the compliment for TP that boasts a minimum 80 percent post-consumer content. Though the tree-felling Cottonelle roll beat it by one-tenth of a point in overall comfort, this little recycled-roll-that-could ruled in absorbency. Even Summer said it was "nice on the tush!"

I don't recall ever coming across this brand at a local grocery store, but the next time I'm in one I'll look for it and give it a try if it's available. Don't expect a review though.

Looking at the comments on Grist's page, I see one person suggests the following:

I...don't know what to make of the whole thing. I was certain it was a joke but their website gives the opposite impressions. The online store certainly seems legitimate. Yet, their tips on how the deed...create doubt.

When you crumple toilet paper, just like if you crumpled a piece of writing paper, it gets sharp edges and corners. Why would you want sharp corners on your toilet paper? Like all paper, toilet paper feels smoothest when it is flat.

Folding, instead of crumpling, also helps you use far less paper— saving energy, resources and money.

If you are worried that folded paper will break or tear, just fold it over again to make more layers. With ShitBegone, I usually tear off 3 or 4 sheets, and fold them over twice for a total of 4 sheets (8 plys) thick. But even if you tear off 6 or 8 sheets at a time, and make a pad 24 layers thick to wipe yourself with, you will still use less paper than most crumplers do.

All right, well...Maybe I'll start with 7th Generation and increase my experimentation when I'm more confident.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

More on the ZENN Car on the Rick Mercer Report

This is a typically funny and informative Mercer segment on the ZENN car. Worth the few minutes to watch it, and worth communicating with the two men mentioned in the segment during the test drive to ask them to get things moving along. Or perhaps appealing to the provincial level is the way to go.

The other thing that jumped out at me was the price. $12,000?? That's honestly far lower than I would have guessed.

On the other hand, I would have two concerns:

a) Top speed. Can you take this thing on the highway? It doesn't sound (no pun intended) like it.

b) Charge length. I believe the site's video states that an eight hour charge is good for about 35 minutes. Oy. Not so good for the long-distance stuff.

So it appears to be a car for a specific market. Still, there are an awful lot of benefits, especially for the selling price and considering that you don't have to buy gas. How much does THAT save a month??

Now this is my first attempt at including a youtube video as part of my post so forgive me if I botch it. If I have, the actual link is this.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The CFL's Green Drive

No, this is not yet another post about how CFL's (compact fluorescent lights) are going to save the world. It's about how the CFL (Canadian Football League) is attempting to lighten the impact of its championship game this weekend.

Here's a portion of a press release from earlier this month.

TORONTO (CFL) -– The ‘CFL Green Drive’, a new initiative focused on minimizing the Grey Cup’s impact on the environment, was announced today by the Canadian Football League, in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Environment.

Each year the CFL hosts the largest single-day sporting event in Canada. The CFL Green Drive represents a major new commitment by the league to minimize the event’s impact on the environment.
For this year’s Grey Cup, the CFL Green Drive will focus on three major areas; the use of renewable clean energy, waste management and carbon offsetting.

Through an environmental audit conducted by supporting partner Zerofootprint, the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the CFL championship game's energy use, paper, and team air travel were determined. These emissions will be balanced out using ISO-certified reforestation carbon offsets. This effort will offset nearly 300 tonnes of carbon dioxide, a process which will help revitalize degraded ecosystems and soak up the CO2 the event has produced.

The CFL is also working with supporting partner and clean energy leader Bullfrog Power, a retailer of 100 per cent EcoLogo certified green electricity, to provide clean power for this year’s Grey Cup.

Throughout Grey Cup week, the CFL’s supporting partner and recycling pioneer Turtle Island will provide waste management and recycling services for the Grey Cup Festival and at the big game itself.

More information can be found on the CFL’s Green Drive website via The website contains links to all of the CFL’s ‘green’ partners and is a resource for fans to learn more about the various initiatives.

Fans will also find an engaging way to be a part of the CFL Green Drive through an interactive carbon calculator designed by Zerofootprint.

Mrs THIT and I recently had a discussion about how authentic some of these "initiatives" are. I'm not questioning the CFL's in particular, but speaking in general terms. Are there real efforts being made, or is the green flag being waived because it's makes for good marketing?

Who knows? I don't want to paint everyone with one wide brush. If nothing else, the CFL brings the issue to a large group of people, a number of which may not be very aware of the options.

The CFL, by the way, is hardly a trailblazer here. Some time ago, it was announced that the 2010 Winter Olympics would also be carbon neutral, and the claim was reinforced earlier this month. The 2006 Olympics were partially offset, as were a number of other events including the Superbowl.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Costa Rica and New Zealand on Path to Carbon Neutrality

This is an article from the Worldwatch Institute.

While some of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs) hem and haw about how to—or even if to—limit their contributions to climate change, at least two small countries are blazing trails for the world to follow. Both Costa Rica and New Zealand have declared over the past several months their intentions to become carbon neutral. Together, they accounted for about 0.15 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2005, according to the World Bank.

In May 2007, Costa Rica’s government announced it was drawing up plans to reduce net GHG emissions to zero before 2030. The country aims to reduce emissions from transport, farming, and industry, and to clean up its fossil fuel power plants, which account for 4 percent of the country’s electricity (of the rest, 78 percent comes from hydropower and 18 percent from wind and geothermal power). In addition, through an innovative program begun in 1997 and funded by a gas tax, the government compensates landowners for growing trees to absorb carbon while protecting watersheds and wildlife habitat. Costa Rica aims to be the first country to become carbon neutral.

But Costa Rica could be in a race with New Zealand, which last month set the target of becoming “the first truly sustainable nation on earth.” Prime Minister Helen Clark announced in a speech on September 20 that her country will adopt an economy-wide program to reduce all GHG emissions, with different economic sectors being gradually introduced into a national emissions trading program that should be in effect fully by 2013. Other commitments include an increase in renewable electricity to 90 percent by 2025 (up from 70 percent today), a major net increase in forest area, widespread introduction of electric vehicles, and a 50 percent reduction in transport-related emissions by 2040.

These two nations represent only a small share of the world’s emissions. But as New Zealand’s Clark said last month, “We are neither an economic giant nor a global superpower…. If we want to influence other countries and the responses they take in coming years and decades, then we must take action ourselves. Taking action is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.”

I've been to Costa Rica and it's a lovely place. I was on a cruise, so I was only there for one day.

I went horseback riding with my wife and my pappy. My horse hated me, as well as everyone and everything around it. I gave another horse attitude and that horse tried to kick mine, causing it to bolt. Thankfully, handlers (?) got a hold him before I was sent tumbling to my ass.

Was that the most unpleasant part of my day trip? Actually, no. Watching dumb-ass tourists stoss cigarette butts in the rain forest was. That was the most frustrating thing. Because heaven forbid you go three whole hours without your smoke.

But I guess it's not that big a deal. When tossing cigarette butts in a forest, what's the worst that can happen, right?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Organic Food Proven Healthier?

I wasn't certain whether I should post this for two reasons:

a) I've beaten this drum before.
b) I typically like to find an objecting viewpoint. Not that I seek to have my mind changed, but I like to know whether there's a (or multiple) factor(s) that I haven't considered.

"b" is particularly true in this area because I know not everyone is a believer that organic = healthier (though most do know that organic = more expensive). However, the mention that this study is the largest of its kind won me over.

Organic food is healthier than conventional produce and may be better at preventing cancer and heart disease, according to the biggest study of its kind. So here is a slightly trimmed version,with the full article available here.

In a finding that challenges official advice, researchers have shown that fruit and vegetables contain up to 40 per cent more nutrients if they are grown without chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

The £12 million project also found that organic milk contains 80 per cent more antioxidants -substances which reduce the risk of tumours and life threatening problems.

Organic produce also had higher levels of iron and zinc, vital nutrients lacking in many people's diets.


A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency - which has come under fire for insisting that organic produce is no more healthier than conventional food - said it would review the latest study.

The findings come from Prof Carlo Leifert, an expert in organic food whose four year Newcastle University study is funded by the European Union and food companies.

He said the health benefits were so striking that moving to organic food was the equivalent of eating an extra portion of fruit and vegetables every day.


His team grew fruit and vegetables and reared cows on organic and non-organic sites on a 725 acre farm near at Newcastle University.

They found that levels of antioxidants in milk from organic cattle were between 50 and 80 per cent higher than conventional milk.

Organic wheat, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, onions and lettuce had between 20 and 40 per cent more nutrients.

Although the study has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, Prof Leifert is convinced the findings are sound.

He also believes there is enough evidence for the Food Standards Agency to change its advice on organic food and admits to being puzzled why the agency has not already done so.

"I wonder whether it's more to do with politics," he said.

The research suggests that organic fruit and vegetable is healthier because it uses more natural fertiliser such as clover and manure.

"Plants have evolved to get nutrients from organic matter, " he said.

"They need only a small amount early on in the year, and most in the summer. Yet with chemical fertiliser, they get most soon after planting and very little when they need it most."

The study - which runs for another year - found that milk was more nutritious in the summer, when cattle are grazing fresh grass.

"If you feed a cow on grass you get better milk," he said.

"I suspect that because British cattle have so much grass in their diet that nutrient levels may be higher in conventional UK milk than in some imported organic milk."

The Soil Association, which has been embroiled in a decade long dispute with the FSA over the health benefits of organic food, has welcomed the latest research.

There are few signs that the boom in organic food is ending. Sales are growing by 25 per cent each year and shoppers now spend around £2 billion a year on organic produce.

The reasons why organic food is popular vary. Some shoppers buy it for the taste, others to reduce exposure to chemicals.

Organic meat is popular among shoppers concerned about animal welfare.

The Food Standards Agency has ordered a review into its advice on organic food and health benefits. The results are expected in March.

"Until then the advice remains that there is no evidence that organic food has higher levels of nutrients than conventional food," a spokesman said.

I have yet to come across a sound argument as to why I shouldn't eat organic when the opportunity presents itself. Even the well-thought out comment made at the bottom of the article...

Yeah. I'm sure that plants that have been splattered with manure are MUCH more healthy than non-organic.

- Nic, Maize, USA

...doesn't quite cut it. When a friend of mine once asked about what the difference was in eating organic, another responded to the effect that "It means that you eat real shit instead of articifical shit". Well...If I'm going to eat shit anyway...

Friday, November 09, 2007

ZENN: Zero Emissions, No Noise

I came across a story of a Canadian company making electric cars, but struggling to sell them within the country, on another blog. But it seems that since that entry was written, things have taken a significant turn and that the possibility of purchasing an electric car is becoming more likely.

Here's a brief video from CBC's National which recaps the hurddle that's been jumped, the remaining difficulties, and some pros and cons of this vehicle.

The ZENN Motor Company's own website has a promotional video as well.

I'm not sure that the Zenn could be the primary vehicle for many people, because of its top speed and maximum charge, but at least it appears that some significant progress has been made in regards to the electric car becoming more mainstream.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Peer Pressure The World Into Eco-Friendliness!

The timing of this article (or at least, my finding it) is convenient, as I'm going to Toronto tomorrow and spending the night in a hotel.

You know those signs they have in the bathrooms reminding you to reuse your towels in order to save water? One such sign was the inspiration of a study on how the wording of a suggestion can impact the likelihood that it will be followed. The results may offer some insight as to how best to deliver a message so that it sticks. Read on:

I’ll bet you’ve been there. You’ve stood under the unkind fluorescent lights of a hotel bathroom, looking at one of those milquetoasty pasteboard signs about towel reuse. And maybe you’ve thought, What a crock. In the face of innumerable planetary ills, we’re expected to believe that towels are the cure?

But marketing researcher Robert Cialdini must have a sunnier disposition. When he first noticed those little signs, he was positively delighted by the opportunities, remembering the billboard slogan this space available for lease. “I thought, ‘This space available for test,’” he said during a recent talk in San Francisco.

Cialdini and his Arizona State University students, with the consent of two Phoenix-area hotels, took their theories of persuasion to the towel rack. First, they tested the familiar exhortations to “Help save the environment” and “Help save resources for future generations.” These messages had similar success rates, convincing an unimpressive 30 percent of guests to reuse their towels after one night.

Things improved, however, when the research team resorted to peer pressure. The invitation to “Join your fellow guests in helping to save the environment”—including the justifiable statement that nearly three-quarters of guests used their towels more than once—garnered a 44 percent participation rate after one night. Then, the researchers drew guests’ peers even closer: “Seventy-five percent of the guests who stayed in this room . . . [used] their towels more than once,” they asserted. With the ghosts of former guests peeping over their shoulders, nearly 50 percent of hotel customers hung up their towels.

We are a pliable people, it seems: what our neighbors, and even our unseen fellow hotel guests, do in their bathrooms wields more influence than we like to think. Cialdini argues that these flocking instincts can, and in some cases already do, work for the planet. In a telephone survey of more than two thousand Californians, for instance, he found that the belief that one’s neighbors conserve energy was closely linked to household energy savings—even though most respondents professed higher-minded motivations such as environmental protection and civic responsibility. Activists, Cialdini says, should take note.

Yet one group resists the do-good herd. An unexpected result of the hotel towel study was that no matter the message, American Express cardholders reused their towels significantly less often than Visa or MasterCard members. The reason, speculates Cialdini, is that many AmEx members take their advertising slogan to heart, believing that membership really does “have its privileges.” One of them, it appears, is to use as many towels as you darn well please.

Smoked Wheat

I've commented a number of times about how certain people make a big deal of the fact that Christine and I became vegetarians a couple of years ago. But I maintain (and always will) that it's not anywhere near the huge lifestyle change that some make it out to be. Not to take a shot at myself, but if I can do it...

If you spend even a minimal amount of time looking into it, you'll find that there are a number of substitutes that are available to kill the meat craving at first, until you no longer really have a desire for it. That's been my (our) experience, anyway. Think of them as "Nicorette for beef". ;-)

Now in truth, there aren't substitutes for everything. I have yet to come across a quality substitute for ribs, for example. And I had yet to come across a quality substitute for smoked meat, but now that one's been taken care of.

Christine spotted "Smoked Wheat" from the above folks at a Loeb store near our place and decided to give it a try. Click on the logo for more details.

We were pretty pleased with it. Was it identical to the real thing? No. Like many fake meats, the most glaring difference is in the texture (in my opinion, anyway).

Does it simulate the real thing well enough to pass? Absolutely. Flavour-wise, it's close enough. And now that it's a couple of hours in my past, I'm enjoying the wicked thirst you get after a little while after eating a smoked meat sandwhich. Now THAT'S substitutin'!! It's also kind of odd because water is the first ingredient...

We'll have it again before long, and likely try "Roast Wheat" at some point. And hopefully they both look close enough to the real thing to others that I can have it in a sandwich at work or with friends and not have someone tell me for the umpteenth time "Oh, that's right! You don't eat meat at all?? I don't know how you do it..."

Here's the nutritional content from a handy little site called And while looking up some information about smoked wheat, I came across this list of Top Five Vegetarian Sandwiches. Smoked Wheat made the #3 position, so I might just have to try the other four some day.