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Environment

Green leaders keep Barrie clean

Posted October 17, 2014 by Erich Jacoby-Hawkins
Have you ever sprung into clean? Every April on a weekend near Earth Day, Barrie residents “Spring Into Clean” through community litter clean-ups, tidying parks, schoolyards, parking lots, roadsides, and other areas where litter accumulates. Living Green pioneered this activity in 2003 when the Georgian College student group Responsible Adventure Travel Society (R.A.T.S.) contacted us about doing a waterfront clean-up right around the same time that Tim Horton’s contacted us about sponsoring one, so we brought them together and got the City’s permission to coordinate a clean-up along Centennial Beach. The event grew by leaps & bounds, more sponsors came on board, and Living Green handed over coordination to the City of Barrie and moved on to start more new initiatives (the latest being FruitShare Barrie).

But litter doesn’t wait for spring, so the City also has the Adopt-a-Park or Trail program, which allows individuals or groups to take on spring and fall clean-ups of any city-owned park or trail. Your group can adopt here, or you can join in with an existing adoption, for example, Living Green has adopted Queen’s Park and the Barrie Green Party has adopted Kidd’s Creek Trail at Sunnidale Park.

Barrie Greens are crazy about collecting litter!
In fact, this Sunday, October 19th, marks a special anniversary for the Barrie Greens’ adoption of Kidd’s Creek: this will be the 10th year we tidy it up, having started the adoption process way back in the spring of 2005. To help us celebrate, Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner will take a break from trying to clean up politics and instead join us to clean up this wonderful green space in Barrie.

This is the first of two Green Party leader visits to Barrie; the second will be when federal leader Elizabeth May presents her new book at the Southshore Centre on November 22nd. (Watch this space for more info about this exciting visit.) Green leaders like to visit Barrie because of our enthusiastic support: in the past 11 years, the Barrie riding has consistently shown about 50% higher Green support than the provincial or national average and been in the top 10% of Green vote results.

This clean-up is now a long-term tradition with us; photogenic Barrie Greens at work are even featured prominently in the City’s official Adopt-a-Park/Trail brochure. We’ve found some pretty startling things alongside the normal litter: bikes and shopping carts (both functional and junked), waterlogged down comforters, wheel rims, tires, and clothing, to name a few. Getting this garbage out of the stream and forest is an important way to help nature thrive in our urban surroundings.

You can be a part of this, too! Our clean-ups are always open to the public, and are great fun for the whole family. Meet us at the Dorian Parker Centre at Sunnidale Park this Sunday morning at 10 and join us for 2 hours of tidying, then we’ll treat you to lunch! You also get to roll up your sleeves and get down & dirty with a provincial party leader; how cool is that? Dress for the weather and wear something tough and waterproof on your feet; we’ll provide gloves and trash bags. See you there!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as “A variety of community clean-ups to choose from
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation
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General

Speak now, or forever suffer FIPA

Posted September 19, 2014 by Erich Jacoby-Hawkins
If you want to hide a story from the public, release it late on a Friday afternoon, with no fanfare.

This past Friday, the government quietly announced they had ratified the FIPA trade pact with China. Negotiated secretly and signed by Prime Minister Harper in Vladivostok, Russia, 2 years ago, ratification had been delayed under protest from many sectors about its flaws.

Franke James‘ nightmare is now our reality
And what flaws they are! Essentially, this treaty allows Chinese companies, including state-owned enterprises, to sue Canada for any new law or regulation they feel threatens their profits. So laws to protect our environment, health, resources, jobs, culture, or values are now subject to Chinese approval! But in keeping with the secrecy under which this accord was negotiated and signed, those lawsuits will be secret until an award is issued by the unelected tribunal; if a settlement is reached, it might never be made public at all, even if it involves paying huge sums of our tax money to Chinese companies!
And unlike NAFTA, which has similar (although much weaker) investor-state provisions but can be cancelled with only six months’ notice, this trade deal locks us in for at least 31 years. Yes, that means the next 7 governments, regardless of who we elect, are bound by it.

At least we had a good debate on this first, right? Wrong. There were no public hearings or consultations, no vote in Parliament, and only a single hour of discussion in committee. If, as proponents argue, this deal is such an amazing advance for Canadian interests, why were all of us supposed beneficiaries kept in the dark? Government should be eager to trumpet good new trade initiatives.

Outstanding court challenges should have prevented ratification, especially a rather solid one from the tiny Hupacasath First Nation. Caring greatly about our future, they have been on the forefront, trying to protect all of our constitutional rights. They know what it’s like to have your rights stolen away, and this deal will overrule not only indigenous rights but also those of our provinces, municipalities, and federal government. And even though their ruling has yet to be reviewed, the Harper government has gone ahead and ratified, also apparently not caring that this pact probably violates the Canadian constitution.

Who benefits? The main winners look to be huge Chinese enterprises, including state-owned ones, looking to buy up more of our resources and expand tar sands extraction, for example. This deal seems like nothing more than a sacrifice of most of our values for the sake of some big investment money to dig up more dirty bitumen to ship to China, at the cost of our air, water, and forests.

Can we stop being locked into this horrible deal? We’re told we live in a democracy, so let’s try. Greens, NDP, and to an extent Liberal MPs have gone on the record against this, even some Conservative supporters and Cabinet members have expressed reservations, so we’re not starting from square one. Sign this or similar petitions hosted by other groups. Write letters to the editor to show your outrage. Contact your MP and demand your concerns be raised in the House. Make your voice heard, or for the next 31 years hold your peace!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as “China deal all but hidden from  public
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation
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General

Autism and the Green Party New Brunswick 2014 Election Platform

Posted September 3, 2014 by H L Doherty

I was pleased to see some autism issues addressed in the Green Party 2014 election platform.  Much as I like the Green Party, particularly leader David Coon, in standing up for NB’s environment, I didn’t expect anything relevant to my central “iss…

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Election

Will Adult Autism Care Issues Be Considered During #nbvotes 2014?

Posted August 23, 2014 by H L Doherty

New Brunswick election 2014 is underway with the NDP, Liberal, Green and PANB parties going all out to replace the PC party.  Party signs are proliferating around the city of Fredericton. The Liberal Party kicked off big time in Fredericton with s…

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General

Thinking outside the (blue) box to make money from waste

Posted March 27, 2014 by Erich Jacoby-Hawkins
It gets the idea across powerfully, and it gets you banned from advertising in a local publication!

People realize we can’t just keep on throwing things away; some embrace it as a value, others simply have to deal with diminishing free public garbage removal and diversion programs that are either mandatory, or the only way to avoid high bag-tag or dumping fees.

The blue/grey box programs are pretty well known by now; we understand metal cans are sold for scrap, bottle glass gets crushed and re-used somehow, paper and cardboard get recycled back into new paper.

But other forms of recycling are more complex. How do they work? One thing we discard at an increasing rate, although not quite as much as weekly trash, is e-waste (or e-scrap): all the electrical devices we get rid of as we upgrade, or as they break down. They are toxic in landfill or incineration, but don’t go in the blue box. So what to do with them?

Well, this Saturday morning (March 29) you can bring them to the Earth Hour Super-Drive, hosted by Barrie’s Green Party on behalf of Off the Rack Free Clothing and the Barrie Food Bank. Along with donations of food items or used clothing, bring in your e-scrap and we’ll weigh it and pay you cash! The Super-Drive runs from 10 AM to noon in the parking lot behind 110 Dunlop St. W., off Toronto Street.

What do we do with your e-waste? It goes to Barrie’s own GreenGo Recycling, the first company in Canada to pay the public for e-scrap founded by Recychologist Rudy Westerneng, a specialized broker for members of the public who want to recycle beyond the blue box. GreenGo collects scrap from the public, pays for it, then separates it by category before shipping it to a wide variety of end-of-line processors across North America.

If you’ve ever heard Rudy singing in local radio spots, you’ll know that at “GreenGo Recycling they recycle everything”. Even better, they’ll pay you for most of it. Rates start low for steel, most e-scrap, batteries, and appliances, but metals like zinc, aluminum, stainless steel, brass, and copper command a premium, as do some electronics like PC towers, laptops, and cell phones, because these contain small but significant amounts of precious metals or rare earths.

Another item worth a bit more is low-grade motors, because of their copper content. Think power drills, kitchen blenders, even electric toothbrushes.

Rudy even pays for TVs (flat screen or tube), broken electric toys, lamps, vacuum cleaners, old fax machines or scanners or printers, cables, your mouse & keyboard, whatever had a plug or batteries or a chip or contains metal, even if it’s largely plastic.

Some of these are valuable on the commodity market; others (like old televisions) are reimbursed from the stewardship fee you pay whenever you buy new electronics in Ontario. Think of it like a bottle deposit: pay when you get the new stuff, bring back your old stuff to get it back.

As a participant in Ontario’s Orange Drop program, Rudy will also take your leftover or unused paint, and even has a rack where you can pick some up for free! He also buys unwanted clothing (clean & dry) for ten cents a pound, which either gets shipped to poorer nations for wearing or is ripped down to recover fibre, plastic, and metal.

So whether you come to our Super-Drive this Saturday morning or visit Rudy’s GreenGo operation on John Street, there is no excuse for just throwing things away, or leaving them to gather dust in the basement, attic, garage or shed. Recycle it!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as “Get rid of your e-waste this weekend in Barrie, maybe earn some cash
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation
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Energy

Charged up about battery recycling for Earth Hour

Posted March 13, 2014 by Erich Jacoby-Hawkins
Don’t throw me away!
As Earth Hour approaches, preparations for the Barrie Green Party’s fifth annual Earth Hour Super-Drive heat up. Once again, this event combines clothing & food donation drives for Barrie’s Free Clothing Centre and Food Bank with an opportunity for you to bring your old electronics or other e-waste in and get cash back for it. Yes, anything with a battery, plug, or chip can be recycled (through our partner GreenGo) instead of going to landfill, and you get paid by the pound for your trouble. As usual, it’s the Saturday morning of Earth Hour (March 29th 10 am to noon), in the parking lot off Toronto Street behind 110 Dunlop St. W.
Earth Hour aims to make us mindful of our energy use’s ecological footprint. Even as we unplug, more and more of our world runs on battery power, and those batteries become a real problem once used up and discarded. If you visit websites of major battery companies like Duracell or Energizer, they will tell you batteries can’t be recycled and you should throw them out with your garbage. Yet Barrie’s own waste calendar urges you not to do that, and even more importantly, batteries can indeed be recycled, right here in Ontario!
Raw Materials Company (RMC) in Port Colborne has actually been recycling alkaline batteries since 1989, using their own mechanical process that separates the batteries into components, some of which (zinc, manganese, potassium) are “upcycled” as agricultural fertilizer and some of which (steel and other metals) are recycled back into the metal supply stream, with the remainder (cardboard and plastic) being used to generate process energy to reduce carbon footprint.

And the connection is even more local than that – recently I spoke with executives at RMC’s local partner LEI Electronics Inc, headquartered right in here in Barrie, who have proudly pioneered and patented the Eco Alkalinestmbattery brand. Although it’s still best to recycle them, these batteries are completely free of toxins like cadmium, lead, or mercury (not even trace amounts) so are harmless if they end up in landfill. And that’s important, because apparently only about 2% of batteries currently make it into the recycling process.

As partner & VP Lionel Lalonde explained, LEI’s passion for the environment goes much deeper. Their non-toxic battery line is certified as carbon-neutral, and they use 80% recycled material in all of their packaging. They have done everything they can to go the extra step and make a sustainable battery product, from factory to shelf to disposal, while keeping their prices in line with the market and their battery quality equal to the leading brands, those efforts earning them LEED certification.

Sadly, the two leading brands have almost a strangle-hold on retail shelves, so if you want these green batteries, you’ll need to order them online for now. But Eco Alkalinestm have seen much greater success at the institutional level, being used by governments, colleges & universities, theme parks, the Canadian Forces.

Unfortunately, there is a chance that Ontario’s battery recycling might be captured by a project of the major suppliers, resulting in our batteries going to a smelter in the US instead of the cleaner and more thorough process invented right here. It’s all up to Waste Diversion Ontario, our provincially-mandated stewardship organization, so be sure to let your elected officials know that you want batteries fully mechanically recycled in Ontario instead of shipped to the US to be burned and melted into slag.
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation
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