Tag Archives: Environment

Top household cleansers to be sued for non disclosure of chemicals used

Common household cleaners

Common household cleaners that could be dangerous to our health

I’ve talked countless times on here about the health and environmental dangers from using mainstream household cleansers due to their chemical ingredients that often go untested. In how to start your green life I explain some of the dangers and solutions. Well, I am very proud to announce that I am not the only person worried about these products and the effects they have on our eco-system. Environmentalists are sueing for the disclosure of chemicals in cleaning products that we all have in our houses. According to the LA Time’s Greenspace: Continue reading

Green must-see; the Story of Stuff, now en français & 10 other languages

The Story of Stuff - Extraction

The Story of Stuff - Extraction

There are (2) two things that have greatly impacted my life; reading Diet for a New America and watching The Story of Stuff.  It was one of the principle reasons I decided to start Urban Green Girl.

The Story of Stuff was one of the most viewed, viral videos of 2007 with over 4 million pages views.  Because of the immense international attention it received, they decided to launch an international version of its coveted online video. Now it contains sub-titles for (10) ten languages including French, Spanish, Hebrew, German, Arabic and Mandarin.

I am so excited as I can finally share this video with my francophone and other international friends for whom it’s been so difficult to explain green living!

So what is this video about you ask? The Story of Stuff:

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Don’t be left out in the cold!

Inform yourself today and learn about the impact you have on the world by watching the Story of Stuff. Watching this video is STEP #1 in starting your green life.

Consumerism - Planned obsolesence

Bush just made it easier to pollute US waterways

Factory farm pigs

Photo: Al Maglio/ AP Photo

A new Bush administration rule just made it easier for American Factory farms to pollute.  According to the Daily Green’s article President Tricks Environment, Treats the Factory Farms, this new rule makes thousands of American factory farms exempt from needing permits that limit water pollution. You see, factory farms are massive polluters.  They produce 3 times the amount of waste as humans, and contrary to popular belief, most is not used as fertilizers on farms. It gets pumped into the local rivers or waterways, contaminates drinking water and kills aquatic life. I personally have seen the cess pools outside hog factory farms. They are huge cement pools full of sewage, waiting to be pumped into some waterway. I won’t even begin to talk about the smell. Of course you, the consumer, can do something about this. You can reduce the amount of meat you eat, thus decreasing your impact on the ecosystem. You can also choose to eat local, organic meat, which is not only healthier for you, but more humane for the animals and has a lesser impact on the environment. I won’t say zero impact because consuming meat, regardless if it’s organic or not, is still worse than relying on vegetable protein. It still pollutes, uses vasts amount of water, energy and resources to create the feed for livestock. Of course the best thing you can do is become vegetarian, thus dramatically reducing your carbon footprint. If you care about human rights, you should look into how developing nations often compete against livestock in wealthy nations for grains.  Unfortunately, it’s more lucrative to sell grains to livestock them humans.  George Monbiot said it best in The Poor Get Stuffed
At present, the world produces enough food for its people and its livestock, though (largely because they are so poor) some 800 million are permanently malnourished. But as the population rises, structural global famine will be avoided only if the rich start to eat less meat. The number of farm animals on earth has risen fivefold since 1950: humans are now outnumbered three to one. Livestock already consume half the world’s grain, and their numbers are still growing almost exponentially.

Getting back to this loophole, when will government put the safety of the people ahead of the profits of industry? As if we’re not already busy enough worrying about the additives and hormones in meats, the pesticides and contaminants on our fruits and vegetables and now we have to worry about our drinking water? This has got to stop! We cannot go on living like this. Desperately hoping for a positive change on November 4th down south.

How to recycle your TV?

End-of-life televisions thrown out on street curb
End-of-life TVs thrown out on street curb

As technology advances,  North Americans are dealing with an ever increasing dilemma of what to do with their old TV’s.  Every year, planned obsolescence plays a bigger and bigger role in our lives as our end-of-life electronics, which although work perfectly fine, become obsolete at an ever frightening pace.

The launch of flat screen TV’s has pushed the utility of our old CRT (cathode ray tube) televisions out the door and into our landfills.  This poses a serious environmental risk as the hazardous materials such as lead, cadmium and mercury inside the TV’s leach out into our environment polluting the land.    Did you know that each TV monitor contains between 6-8 pounds of lead? Now that’s serious poison!

Fortunately, there is something you can do about it.

1) Donate your TV to charity: Does your TV still work? If so, consider reusing it by donating it to a local charity, non-profit organisation or school.  Many of these organisations are so honest about directly investing their donations into their main activity, that they would feel guilty about spending it on office equipment.

Examples: Friends, family, grand parents, seniors home, day-cares, preschools, libraries, volunteer programs in low-income neighbourhoods etc.  You could also try RecycleNet which is a buy and sell place like CraigsList but for electronics in both Canada and USA.

2) Recycle the TV: The first thing you should do when inquiring about local recycling programs for your TV is to contact the manufacturer directly.  Some will except the TV for free or a nominal fee.  Although some TV manufacturers had info about their sustainable development programs and environmental advances in producing the TVs, Sony was the only manufacturer that actually had a great & easy program for recycling. You can either drop your Sony TV off at their Sony Style Canada or Sony Style USA store or to a certified drop off centre.  If you’re planning on purchasing a new TV, I would definitely suggest Sony as they have put excellent measures into producing more environmentally friendly TVs, plus they make it very easy to recycle.

In United States, Panasonic, Toshiba and Sharp created the Electronics Manufacturers Recycling Management Company which organises recycling events across 29 states and it seems to be growing. In Canada, Panasonic is striving to establish end-of-life recycling programs in all provinces though the help of the Electronic Product Stewardship organisation. Although they have many worldwide green initiatives in place, they do not currently accept their products back at their stores for recycling.

3) Contact your local municipality, province or state: Since not all retailers nor manufacturers have a recycling program in place, your next option is to find out what recycling programs exists in your area.  I must say, I was quite disappointed with the lack of programs available and not all provinces/states have taken on the initiative of creating an electronics stewardship program.  Apparently, Ontario is set to come on board with a stewardship program in April 2009, followed by Quebec in 2009 or 2010.

WARNING: Many municipalities hold recycling events open to the public to donate your used end-of-life electronics, however, you need to ask where these electronics are going.  There are a lot of sketchy “recyclers” out there that are actually just scrap companies looking for parts of value (copper, wiring, boards etc). According to FreeGeekVancouver electronic waste continues to be the most heavily traded toxic waste on the planet. UN figures say 50 million tonnes of e-waste are generated yearly. Canadians alone throw out 140,000 tons of equipment every year, the equivalent of about 5.6 million computers. Most of the material that is collected for “recycling” and “re-use” actually ends up dumped or burned in poor countries with few environmental or worker protections.

Electronic waste in Lagos, Nigeria

© Basel Action Network - Electronic waste in Lagos, Nigeria

Here are some e-waste resources for both Canada and United States:

CANADA:

Atlantic Canada Electronics Stewardship has established a network of drop-off centres where residents and businesses can return select electronic equipment.

Electronics Stewardship Association of BC (Return-It electronics) provides an extensive list of drop-off centres across BC for electronics.

Alberta Recycling is a not-for-profit association that is responsible for tire and electronics recycling. Through their website, you can easily find recycling collection sites.

Saskatchewan Waste Electronic Equipment Program (SWEEP) is a non-profit corporation established by manufacturers, retailers, and other stakeholders for the purpose of coordinating the collection and recycling of obsolete electronic equipment in Saskatchewan. Green Manitoba is a provincial environmental program that deals with e-waste and provides a list of e-waste collection sites.

Electronics Stewardship is a non-profit corporation established by manufacturers, retailers, and other stakeholders to develop a waste diversion plan for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) in response to the designation of these materials under the Waste Diversion Act (WDA).

SIMS Recycling Solutions is a recycler of end-of-life electronics in Brampton, Ontario. There is a fee for drop off but they do an excellent and honest job.

Electronic Stewardship Products Canada (EPSCanada) is a not-for-profit organisation working to design, promote and implement sustainable solutions for Canada’s electronic waste problem.

USA:

Basel Action Network lists ethical recyclers of electronics across the US on their website.

My Green Electronics is a great site “green” site operated by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) where you can locate recycling centres for electronics by zip code.

YNotRecycle will come pick up your used electronics for free in California.

eRecycle list all drop off locations for e-waste in California on their website.

Earth 911 is an excellent site that provides a wealth of information on consumer recycling including recycling centres in your area.

As TV recycling progress continues in North America, I will continue to update this list. One thing that is for sure, though is, if you still have that old TV lying around in your garage or attic, don’t hold on to it forever. As the demand for flat screen tv’s continues, the demand for the parts in CRT televisions will also decrease in poorer nations thus making it harder to recycle CRT TV’s. Thus, don’t wait any longer, recycle it now.

What to do with that damn old couch?

Do you have an article of furniture, a love seat or couch that you want to get rid of but don’t think anyone would pay for it?  You dream of having a fancy new modern couch in the colour of your choice but feel guilty when faced with the fact that you’d have to throw yours out?  Or maybe you were like me, you had a couch with a great structure by your wonderful feline friends took a liking to it, destroyed it and now you don’t know what to do?

Wait, before you throw it out and contribute to our every growing landfill problems, why not consider reupholstering it? I did. I had a great sofa bed couch that I paid more than $1200 for but because my cats had torn the living day lights out of it, I didn’t even think I’d get $200 for it if I sold it on Craigs list and that bothered me because deep down, she really was a good couch.

Giving it to family wasn’t an option as sending it to Vancouver would cost way more than it was worth so I was faced with the dilemma of “what do I do with it?” I did a little research and realised that reupholstering was the best option.  If the couch structure is good, reupholsterers can make a better quality couch then what you could purchase these days.

They completely redo the foam, the lining and the fabric.  They also use better quality materials so the couch ends up lasting longer too.  And dare I mention that their craftsmanship is much better then the couches that are made on assembly lines in China these days?

I knew nothing about it but figured it couldn’t cost that much. I took to the the yellow pages online and started searching for reupholstering companies in my neighbourhood.  Most wanted you to send them a picture by email in order to figure out how much material they would need in order to give you a quote. Ha ha, silly me, I thought it couldn’t cost more than say, oh I don’t know, $200-$300? Well, in reality, it cost almost as much as a new couch, but then I had to tell myself that the quality is so much better and I would save my couch from ending up in the landfill.

So if you call a re-upholsterer, don’t expect great customer service, someone to sell you on the idea of how amazing reupholstering is or how you are saving the environment.  They are craftsmen and could care less about great phone skills but boy do they do a great job. My guy even threw in extra arm covers!

The guy came to my house with fabric samples and I even did tests by rubbing pet hair on them, then vacuumed it up to see how easy it was. He didn’t care. He was knowledgeable about the durability and because he wasn’t a “salesmen”, didn’t hide anything from me. He was even upfront about the cost of fabric and his profit, which when you count the hours it takes to reupholster a couch, isn’t much.

All in all, I can say I was very pleased with the results and would recommend it to anyone. Do check around with different reupholsterers though. The price varied by $500 depending on who I called. But trust me, it is well worth it. Has anybody else considered doing it?

Update: February 15th, 2009 Due to popular demand, I am now posting the website of Creatif reupholstering, the company that reupholstered my couch.

My Personal Journey

Has your life ever felt like a constant contradiction?  Wanting to fit in yet wanting to be different? Wanting to follow the status quo yet not wanting to conform?  I struggle with many issues in my personal and professional life; stuggle to figure out who I am and what I’m willing to support. . Sometimes I wish I could just live an easy life, never question anything, eat meat like the rest of people, dress never questioning where the materials came from, where regulary advertised beauty products without worrying about the chemical ingredients in them, use prescribed drugs despite the animal testing, throw out garbage instead of recycling, except I can’t. I see things beyond the surface level and am aware of what had to happen in order for these products to exist. Whether I like it or not,  I am Green. A critical thinker. And I love it! I really truly want to make this world a better place and hope that I can limit my personal impact throughout my existence on this earth. This is my personal journey to being green, the obstacles I will tackle in reducing my carbon footprint and the pleasure it’ll bring me.