Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour '09 and beyond

I said in an earlier post that I need to stop neglecting this little slice of the 'net, but obviously I have not followed through.

That's not due to lack of interest in the subject matter, mind you. I'm still making the effort to find little ways to to reduce my footprint.

And this year, I plan to participate in Earth Hour.

I was not able to last year because I was at a...huh...professional wrestling event and I was not confident that they would honour my request to turn off the lights and have the matches by candle light.

Let's move on to a good article from the Ottawa Sun today. There are plenty of articles about Earth Hour out there, but I favour this one because it offers suggestions on how to incorporate Earth Hour into the rest of the year.

Here we go:
Earth Hour is set to become the largest global action in human history.

Really? This surprises me because it seemed to be getting far less hype this year. Perhaps it's becoming ingrained, like Earth Day. Why the hell did no one think of Earth Year??

If all goes according to plan, at 8:30 p.m. local time today, one billion people in more than 1,000 cities around the world will be turning off their lights.

The idea is to focus global attention on the need for action on climate change

While the simplicity of the one-hour event makes it powerful, organizers say it's just a start.

"Turning the lights off for Earth Hour is a great first step, but if you really want to see a difference, then make Earth Hour part of your everyday life," says the Earth Hour website.
You hear that, non-believers?

A pet peeve of mine are people who debate by arguing points that aren't being made. You often hear people say "Turning off your lights for one hour isn't going to do a thing to affect the Earth's temperature". No one is saying it will. That's not the intent.

Despite growing concern about climate change, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions increased nearly 22% between 1990 and 2005. By the end of 2006, Canada's total emissions were 29% above the Kyoto target.

The good news is that during the same period, greenhouse gas emissions from Canada's housing sector decreased by 8.5%, despite a 28% increase in housing, reports the Canadian Home Builders' Association. This translates into an average 15% decrease per household.

Interesting stat. I would be curious to know by what method the reduction was achieved.

The most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to reduce energy use. According to Natural Resources Canada, within the average Canadian household, 60% of energy is used for space heating, 18% for heating water, and 14% for appliance use. Lighting accounts for 5%, and space cooling 3%. With that in mind, here's a list of suggestions that can reduce household energy use and save money:
More interesting stats. I questioned that having a house full of CFL's was not having the impact that I thought it should (judging from the total of my electricity bill). But if lighting only accounts for 5%, I guess that explains it somewhat.

Here's another thing that struck us though (I may have mentioned this before...I repeat myself constantly): We have CFL's everywhere, and they use about a third of the evergy of "conventional" light bulbs...but almost every light switch in the house will light three or four of them. So...what's the point??

The solution for us then is to be careful as to which ones we actually use. We have a pot light above the shower in the master bathroom. We use that one most because the "main" light switch flicks on four bulbs. Duh.

I'm sorry, I interrupted the list of suggestions. Here it is.

1. Lower your thermostat by just one degree. This can reduce your residential heating bill by as much as 10%, according to Natural Resources Canada. While many Canadians lower their thermostats at night, lowering daytime temperatures, particularly when no one is home, can add up to big energy savings.

2. Install a programmable thermostat and learn how to use it. While 40% of Canadian households have programmable thermostats, an estimated 20% of these don't use them.

3. Switch to cold water in the laundry. Washing in cold water can reduce energy use by 80% and save $100 a year in hot water.

4. Line-dry your clothes. This can cut household energy bills by as much as 15%. As an added bonus, the sun's ultra-violet rays naturally bleach and disinfect clothes, eliminating the need for chlorine bleach and other harsh chemicals.

This reminds me of one of the dumber questions I asked when I got started with my self-imposed training. We were looking into buying appliances for the new house. We made it a point to seek out Energy Star ones. Dishwasher, fridge, washer and...hey, they don't make Energy Star clothes dryers.

"Sure they do," Mrs THIT pointed out, "They call them 'clotheslines'."


5. Have a home energy audit. Most provinces now have government Home Energy Audit programs that help offset audit costs and provide grants for energy efficiency improvements.

6. Caulk and weather strip doors and windows. This can reduce heating bills by 25%, according to the David Suzuki Foundation.

7. Use power bars for televisions, DVD players, video game consoles and other electronic equipment. As much as 10% of household electricity is consumed by appliances that are turned off, but continue to draw power in stand-by mode. This referred to as phantom load.

8. Upgrade your appliances. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, replacing a 10-year-old refrigerator with a new Energy Star approved model can save enough energy to light your home for more than three months.

9. Be water-wise. Pumping water is responsible for as much as two-thirds of the total electricity used by municipalities. Take shorter showers, install low-flow toilets and sink aerators. Reducing water use in the shower will also help cut your hot water bill.

10. Educate yourself. Visit

Now here's something I learned; I asked Mrs THIT what she planned to do during that hour and she said something about watching TV or some such.

What what what?? No way! But apparently, that's allowed. You just need to have your lights off, but can use electricity for other purposes.

Nonsense. All electricity is banned here for that hour.

And I won't make the same mistake I made the last time we had a power failure. Somehow, I decided that it would be a good idea to shave by candlelight.

It isn't.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Tougher anti animal abuse laws unleashed

Nice bit of news today for those of you (us) who care for (and about) pets. If I recall correctly, these laws had not been brought up to date since Jesus was in diapers.

The following is by Antonella Artuso for Sun Media.

TORONTO -- Anyone caught abusing or neglecting an animal could face fines of up to $60,000, jail time and a lifetime ban on pet ownership under a new provincial animal welfare bill that comes into effect today.

Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci's bill will also give inspectors with the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals the power to enter public places such as zoos, pet stores and circuses without a warrant to determine if animals are receiving proper care.

The act creates a new offence -- causing or permitting distress to an animal -- that has higher penalties and a lower burden of proof than the Criminal Code which had been the only tool available for the prosecution of serious animal abuse cases.

Hugh Coghill, Ontario Chief Inspector for the OSPCA, said their inspectors investigate about 15,000-16,000 complaints a year but the vast majority are resolved with verbal recommendations.

About 2,500 cases might receive a written order, and the courts are reserved for the most serious and recalcitrant offenders.

"The Ontario SPCA always takes an educational role first and foremost, so education before enforcement is a key mantra that we have in the back of our mind all the time when we're doing our work," Coghill said. "If whatever you were doing before wasn't against the law, it's not against the law now. But people who abuse and neglect animals need to be aware that the laws will now be stronger to protect animals."

The OSPCA can now seize and hold an animal until a court decides if the owner is guilty of an offence under the act, where previously the animal had to be returned if the offender paid the bill for any vet care that was required.

The existing maximum $60,000 fine for cruelty to animals, which applied only to cats and dogs for sale, has now been extended to all offences.

"If you cut the ears off your dog without anaesthetic, without care and treatment, that could be an offence and that could be a very serious fine," said Coghill, noting it would not have been an offence under the previous legislation.

The Provincial Animal Welfare Act also mandates vets to report suspected animal abuse or neglect.

Animal doctors had been bound by confidentiality rules, but are now protected under law if they report a client to the OSPCA.

"It was actually the veterinarians that wanted it," Coghill said.

The OSPCA welcomes the new power to enter public places where animals are kept because obtaining a warrant has proven difficult, he said.

The OSPCA was denied a warrant to search a west Ontario zoo where a member of the public had complained about the care of a kangaroo because the information was three months old.

When inspectors arrived at the zoo without a warrant, the owner refused them access, he said.

"The fact that we're denied entry to a place that is open to the public (now) becomes our grounds to get a warrant and go in and see if the animals are being provided the standard of care," he said.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

What's a Superbowl?

I mentioned before that in addition to this blog, I have one (and a full website) dedicated to local football. Yes, it includes the professional game but because you can find much of that information elsewhere, I focus on the amateur scene (about 17 to 24 as an age group).

I have put a lot of effort over the past two or three years in trying to help restore a professional team in Ottawa (writing to city council, taking part in a Design Competition for the area in which the stadium is located, etc).

I try to have fun with it, but it is often frustrating. I am not an optimist by nature but if I have to point to one positive, the experience has reinforced my belief that no matter how stupid an opinion is, someone somewhere has it. Apparently, he or she also has an Ottawa address.

Truth be told though, if someone were to tell me that a pro team here will never happen again in my lifetime, I could be perfectly happy with just following the youth levels for a number of reasons. The value of sports in society can be debated endlessly, but I personally believe that whatever value it does have is greater at the amateur level.

Here is an example, from a high school basketball game in New York, of the type of positive impact it can have on an individual and/or group. You don't see this kind of thing in the pros.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

It's colder than a well digger's ass out there...

...but that doesn't mean that your heating bills have to skyrocket.

Low Impact Living (A THIT personal favourite) provides a list of tips on how to reduce your consumption and/or costs. What I like about this list is that they break them down by project "size". Here's a preview:

Something you can do today: "Turn down your thermostat when away or at night. You could save up to 1% off your heating bill for every degree you lower your thermostat. And, contrary to urban legend, it does NOT use significantly more energy to warm your house back up again."

Something you can do this week: "Install a programmable thermostat. Even though it is easy, many of us will decide that re-setting the thermostat by hand every day is a pain. So, let your thermostat do it for you with one of these programmable Energy Star options. Save up to 5% of your energy bill, and avoid emitting 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Something you can do this month: "Seal your heating ducts. Leaks in ductwork are some of the most costly and easiest to fix heating / cooling problems, often wasting 10% or more of your heating fuel. Find do-it-yourself duct sealing products here.

The full list is here. Oh, and the expression used as a title for this post was borrowed, with permission, from Mrs THIT's grandfather. He has a million of them, and probably a few more just waiting for the appropriate moment.

Maison Idekit

This is neat. I was directed to it from a Green Communities Canada newsletter. The title is also the name of a Quebec-based company which builds homes from recycled freight containers.

Before (or, well, during):


So how much does one of these cost? Well...It's complicated. They can't take into account the cost of land and they don't include plumbing and basic electricity in the construction. So when you first see $62,000 for a 2000 square foot unit that is, by their own admission, misleading.

This article (French only, apparently like the idekit website) has additional photography.

I would love one of these as a cottage or retirement home. :-)