Wednesday, April 29, 2009


One of suggestions made at OPSEU's Green Stewards' meeting at convention last week was for people to begin using Eco-Font. I had never heard of it before. It's pretty ingenious. The main purpose is to save ink and raise awareness about conservation.  It's free for individual users at the ecofont website. 

Zero Mile Diet

From last year's Globe and Mail.

Growing the zero-mile diet

Green Living's Winners and Sinners

The best and worst eco moments of 2009... to date.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cafeteria re-opens at OPSEU head office

Today's the big day everyone's been waiting for - the re-launch of OPSEU's cafeteria - The Solidarity Cafe - under new management - Anne-Marie Todd-Mowatt & Jeff Mowatt. The old cafeteria was closed last July after a truck rammed the exterior kitchen wall on a quiet Saturday afternoon. The new caterers have a number of environmentally friendly policies and practices. These include:

  • locally grown and seasonal foods including cheese
  • other local suppliers
  • fair trade coffee
  • use of real cups and dishes to minimize waste
  • bio-degradable food containers
  • green cleaning products
It is also expected that the cafeteria will begin using herbs grown right at head office. 

Green Union provided them with a couple of OPSEU water pitchers for drinking water. 

They make dynamite butter tarts! 

Just use less....

No, it's not "useless". It's use less. There's a reason that "reduce" is the first of the three Rs.

Hat tip to Jackie Larkin for this video.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Green meeting at Convention

We had a very well attended and successful green stewards meeting at Convention this year. Held on Saturday at lunch (while everyone is trying to check out), about 60 members attended the meeting.

Members were provided an update on OPSEU's greening initiatives over the past year. Reports were made by myself (Gary Shaul), OPSEU 1st Vice-President/Treasurer Patty Rout and Environment Committee members Sandra Snider and Jennifer Giroux.

Throughout the meeting, members shared their own stories about greening projects in their workplaces and communities.

Participants were all provided with an OPSEU silver bullet drinking container as a token of appreciation for their attending the meeting.

Our green stewards email list grew by about 50 names provided at the meeting and at our display table.

A fuller report and pics will follow.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Green Union on a break

As we're going into OPSEU Convention, I won't be posting until next week.

Greening sex

Someone(anonymously) left this article pinned to my office door so I thought I would share it with you. Could attract a whole new layer of readers with this one. :)

From today's Metro, Greening your intimate life

10 ways to make sex good for the planet, too
Sex can improve your memory, strengthen your sense of smell, reduce stress, and boost your immune system. If you toss in a little green, sex can be good for the planet, too.

Here are 10 ways to make your sex life a little more eco-friendly.
  1. Go green together
  2. Consider your birth control
  3. Massage with natural oils
  4. Bask in the light of beeswax, soy or vegetable candles
  5. Frolic on organic bamboo sheets
  6. Consume less energy
  7. Explore your racy side
  8. Lube it up naturally
  9. Tinkle afterward
  10. Bask in a green afterglow
You'll have to read the article if you want the details.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Buyer beware: Greenwashing abounds

Green trees

According to a report in today's Toronto Star, 
The labels on 98 per cent of those good-for-the-earth-and-your-body items you fill your shopping basket with are lying, a new study shows.

Of the more than 2,000 self-described environmentally friendly products in North America examined by the environmental marketing firm TerraChoice, only 25 were found to be indisputably "sin free." The rest were greenwashing, a term environmentalists coined to refer to misleading environmental ads or claims...

Greenwashing is especially prevalent in the promotion of cleaning products, cosmetics and children's toys and products, McDougall said...

The Competition Bureau of Canada set out new guidelines for environmental claims last year, but gave industry a year to bring advertisements and labels in line...

In Canada, most transgressions fell into three categories: lack of proof, vague language or "hidden trade-offs" – the practice of emphasizing a product's green aspects while concealing others that are environmentally damaging.

For instance, a "green" pad of paper might have come from sustainably logged trees but been milled in an ancient, carbon-dioxide spewing mill that still uses dioxin-producing chlorine to bleach the pulp, he said.
Sleight of hand
Check out the "Seven Sins of Greenwashing".

Graphics courtesy of Terrachoice.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Green cities of the future

Canada's Greenest Cities of Tomorrow

Our cities are leading the way to a cleaner urban future. Find out which ones will get there first. You’re in for a few surprises.
Leading the pack in Ontario are Sudbury for a number of initiatives including massive tree planting and Toronto for its apartment building retrofit program. 

Guelph, Hamilton, Mississauga and Kingston also make the list for a variety of initiatives.

Sarnia and Windsor on the other hand, are considered at the "back of the pack".

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Beware: Biomass emissions

There are a lot of "green" claims out there these days. Car manufacturers are touting "green" SUVs because they're not as bad as hummers. Unnecessary lighting is "green" because it uses LEDs or compact flourescents. And so it goes. 

As alternatives to fossil fuels gain popularity and affordability, we should be conscious about looking at the whole picture before promoting new technologies and products. 

Biomass energy 'could be harmful'

Ploughing up pasture to plant energy crops could produce more CO2 by 2030 than burning fossil fuels, if not done in a sustainable way, it said...

The agency is calling on the government to introduce mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from publicly-subsidised biomass facilities, to help work out if minimum standards need to be introduced.
That's not to say that we shouldn't be supporting positive change and alternatives, but we need to ensure we've got a critical lens for seeing through false claims and certainly avoid promoting anything which is not helping to solve the problem of greenhouse gas emissions.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Passover & the Environment

I came across this doing my unusual google searches.

Jewish Passover and its Connection to the Environment

We found Rabbi Yehudah Leo Levi from Jerusalem to answer a few questions of our own. This is what the Physicist/Rabbi/Author said:

Q: How is Passover connected to the environment?
A: The connection between Passover and the environment is somewhat indirect, but extremely profound. According to the Torah (Jewish tradition), one central purpose of the creation of the human being was to complete the development the world God had created in His wisdom. The human being was put into the wonderful Garden of Eden, not, primarily, to enjoy its delicious fruits, but rather "to serve it and guard it" (Genesis 2:15). Or, in the words of the Midrash: "When God created Adam, he took him to survey all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said to him: 'See My works, how pleasant and praiseworthy they are… be careful not to spoil and ruin My world. For, if you spoil, there is no one to repair after you" (Qoheleth Rabba 7:13).

In other words, the human being is to be a caretaker, not owner, of the world.
As in all things related to Jewish laws and customs, they are open to interpretation.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Greening OPSEU's Convention

Here is a list of green initiatives being taken by OPSEU and/or the Sheraton Centre where our annual Convention is being held April 23 - 25.

  • OPSEU GHG reduction policy & green meeting guide to be distributed at Greening OPSEU table
  • Encourage members to bring re-usable drinking containers
  • Green stewards meeting – Thursday @ noon
Sheraton Centre initiatives

  • compostable cups and water jugs in all meeting rooms
  • composting bins
  • recycling bins in all meeting & guest room
  • use of Turtle Island for recycling of cardboard, paper and glass
  • deal with Globe and Mail for newspaper recycling
  • leftover food is sent to local food banks
  • Sheraton now serves fair trade coffee after request from OPSEU & other labour groups
  • coffee shop in mall will serve fair trade coffee after OPSEU's request
  • Lighting is turned off when rooms are not in use
  • Water conservation – low flush toilets
  • Used soap sent to Mennonite churches for melting and reshaping
  • Linen & towel reuse program
  • Full auditing of water usage, energy usage and recycling

  • Variable mileage rate for members to encourage car-pooling
  • New, fuel-efficient OPSEU van to be used for transporting goods to and from hotel
Convention kits

  • Reusable, zippered, organic cotton bags

Paper reduction initiatives

  • Pre-convention mailout – reduction of 35 sheets per package for reduction of 21,000 pieces of paper
  • Use of partially recycled paper
  • Back to back printing where possible for convention floor handouts
  • Use of efficient document formatting
  • Reuse convention signage from year to year
  • No colour printing at Convention
  • Delegates at hotel can opt out of getting daily newspaper – no plastic bag for newspapers
  • Use of non-toxic markers
  • Use of recycled flip-chart paper
  • Use of Energy Star printers at Convention 
Display area
  • Inform vendors about green “do’s and don’ts”
  • Environmental groups invited to display
  • Greening OPSEU display

Disposing of electronic equipment?

Do what you can: Electronics & household, hazardous waste

Here's an Ontario-wide program you can use to dispose of garbage-bound electronic equipment. 
To decrease the amount of potentially hazardous material accumulating in our landfills, the Ontario Government has designated Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES), a non-profit industry organization to manage a program that encourages reuse, recycling and, if needed, proper disposal of unwanted electronic equipment.
Programs are available in these Ontario communities. The focus right now is on computers, televisions and fax machines but more devices are slated to be added.

The site also facilitates the disposal of cleaning products and other hazardous chemicals.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Big Pitch

OPSEU was invited to have a display table at "The Big Pitch", a student organized green fair held today at Centennial College in Scarborough. There were several booths and speakers including representatives from Live Green Toronto, Cathy's Crawly Composters (worms), BioChar, Evergreen, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) and Fielding Chemical Technologies

It was an interesting afternoon. Kudos to Zach Steel for pulling this off.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Gadget warning...

From Green Living Magazine

5 not so green gadgets

There's more to a truly eco-friendly technology than energy-efficiency. So the next time you're out shopping for the latest electronics, keep these tips in mind.
Here's a summary of the gadget types to avoid:
  • Plasma screen TVs
  • TVs from manufacturers that don't have takeback programs
  • Greenwashed gadgets (they sound green but in the end, more energy is used in their life-cycle than a standard gadget
  • Gadgets with a stand-by mode (without Energy Star rating)
  • Electric appliances (compared to gas appliances)
  • Bonus gadget: Desktop computers compared to laptops

Some cool Earth Hour photos

Click on a photo to see the lights go out. Tip of the hat to Francis Rustia for these pics.

Earth Hour 2009

More than 1,000 cities in over 80 countries observed Earth Hour 2009 on Saturday March 28th, as homes, office towers and landmarks turned off their lights for an hour starting at 8.30 pm local time to raise awareness about climate change and the threat from rising greenhouse gas emissions. Collected here are a series of before-and-after photographs - which (starting with the second one below) will fade between "on" and "off" when clicked.
Sample pic. Check out website to see the special effects.

350 parts per million

This just in.

The Invitation

Dear World,

This is an invitation to help build a movement--to take one day and use it to stop the climate crisis.

On October 24, we will stand together as one planet and call for a fair global climate treaty. United by a common call to action, we'll make it clear: the world needs an international plan that meets the latest science and gets us back to safety.

This movement has just begun, and it needs your help.

Here's the plan: we're asking you, and people in every country on earth, to organize an action in their community on October 24. There are no limits here--imagine bike rides, rallies, concerts, hikes, festivals, tree-plantings, protests, and more. Imagine your action linking up with thousands of others around the globe. Imagine the world waking up...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wake up call for environmentalists....

A very good read, however challenging and even slightly disheartening. I can't say the same doesn't apply to Canada as much as to the US.

Why we are going quietly nuts
Lessons from cognitive dissonance theory for U.S. environmentalists

If we accept the worst, or precautionary assessment, then U.S. environmentalists have perhaps a year to avert cataclysm, and nothing we are doing now will work. We are dealing with this terrible situation in a very ordinary and human way: by denying it.

Our denial comes in a variety of forms: we believe that President Obama can and will solve the problem; we ignore Jim Hansen's assessment and timeline; we concentrate on our jobs and organization agendas and pass over the big picture; we focus on the molehill of climate policy rather than tackle the mountain of climate politics; we assess our efforts by looking back on how far we have come and do not measure the distance still to be traveled; we scrupulously avoid criticizing each other, lacking conviction in our own courses of action and not wishing to invite criticism in turn; and we are irrationally committed to antique approaches that are self-evidently inadequate.

Reminder: Earth hour photo submissions close at 5:00 today

OPSEU's first Earth Hour Party incentive plan ends at 5:00 p.m. today. We have had photos from 11 members submitted so far.

London G20 Summit set to begin

G20 summit: the groups behind the protests

Note how central the environment is to this year's G20 summit protesters.
A coalition of more than 100 trades unions, charities, churches and pressure groups that marched in London yesterday under the banner of "Jobs, justice and climate."

The groups include the TUC, the Salvation Army, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Oxfam, Tear Fund, the National Pensioners Convention, Stop Climate Chaos, Action Aid and the Muslim Council of Britain. Their message to the G20 summit is that "only just, fair and sustainable policies can lead the world out of recession".

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