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Thursday, 21 February 2013

Deciphering Labels - FSC

On a lot of paper products that come in the mail (and on some cardboard) I have seen this symbol: It represents the Forest Stewardship Council. This is a third party verification organization to monitor environmental forest management. It is an international organization but there is a Canadian branch. It also requires producers that apply for certification meet standards protecting endangered wildlife, aboriginal people's rights, and worker conditions. Many banks print on FSC certified paper and building supplies can also be certified. These supplies fall under the subheading of Controlled Wood certification. On their Canadian website they state:

FSC Controlled Wood has been verified NOT to come from:
Illegally harvested forests;
Forests harvested in violation of traditional and civil rights;
Forests in which high conservation values are threatened;
Forests that are being converted to plantations or non-forest use; or
Forests in which genetically modified trees are planted.

The FSC logo can be printed with a lot of additional information which can require a little bit of deciphering. If the label looks like this: the product is from well managed forests but it 100% virgin material (no recycling).
If the label looks like this: it is made with a combination of FSC virgin fiber and recycled materials. The loop in the corner tells you how much is pre and post consumer recycled fiber.
Finally, if the image looks like this: the product is made entirely of recycled fiber and the loop % is the same as previous. The number at the bottom is a code number so the product can be tracked through the supply chain to the manufacturer, distributer, or supplier.

Friday, 15 February 2013

My Local Waste Management Dept.

I had a very educational afternoon today. I attended a Managing your waste workshop put on by my local waste management department. I still want to tour the recycling and composting facilities of my municipality - but this workshop went a long way in informing me of what my diverting waste options are.

We started with an icebreaker by being given bags of garbage to sort into compost, paper recyclables, container recyclables, reusables, hazardous waste, and landfill garbage. Our group did pretty well but I found out that plastic 'clams' (any hard form of plastic that has no removable lid) is not recyclable at this time. HOWEVER - on April 1st they will be! Yipppeeeeeee! Other tips the region gave us were to separate materials as much as possible for easy sorting and rinse out/empty containers so they do not contain food waste of liquid. This is because the machinery at the plant identifies an object by either weight or computers and if a mixed material is detected the item may be sent to a landfill. Right now Durham's Waste Management facilities divert aprox. 53% of garbage from landfills (an excellent record when compared to other Ontario regions) and their goal is to get it to 70%.

The Durham Waste Management site is extremely easy to navigate and includes a great tool called "Know Before You Throw"

This program allows you to type in any piece of garbage you have and it will direct you on how to dispose of it properly. Our region has special drop off sites for recycling some waste that I didn't think was possible (styrofoam, paint, electronics etc.) We even have a curbside battery collection program!

All-in-all it was a very positive presentation and I left knowing I could purchase local compost from the green bin program, that we have 'reuse' days when gently used items can be picked up for charity, and that many local businesses take back the garbage that comes with their products to recycle or reuse themselves (local greenhouses and their flower pots for example). I also came home with some great recycled swag and contact numbers for educational presentations for my students.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Small Change - Body Wash

I love body products. I don't wear make-up but I like to buy lotions and potions to make me feel pampered. But recently I've been thinking about what is IN some of these products and becoming concerned not only about the personal effects of exposure, but also the environmental effects of the products I purchase. I've come to the conclusion that the less ingredients a product contains the better it probably is. This way I can research easier and limit the 'unknown' factor of what my body is coming in contact with. Consider my most recent switch:

On the left you see AMANDE SHOWER OIL by L'Occitane (what I was using) and on the right you see VANILLA DREAM SHOWER GEL made by a local wise woman and yoga teacher at OM creations . Here is the list of ingredients of the two products.

AMANDE SHOWER OIL: vitis vinifera seed oil, tipa-laureth sulfate, laureth-3, caprylic/capric triglyceride, parfum/fragrance, cocamide mea, sorbitanoleate, propylene glycol, prunus amygdalus dulcis oil, tocopherol, water, sunflower seed oil, rosemary leaf extract, coumarin, limonene, linalool.

VANILLA DREAM SHOWER GEL: glycerine soap base, vanilla and basil essential oils.

Now which one sounds better? All the STUFF in the first product was not only coming in direct contact with me and being absorbed into my skin, but was also being washed down the drain into our waterways. After doing some research (brief - consisting of The Environmental Working Group's website) I found out Coumarin is an allergen and immune system toxin and Limonene is linked to wildlife and environmental toxicity as well as shown to create reproductive toxicity in animal studies. Who wants that on their skin?

Monday, 4 February 2013

"Take out" - the trash

This is a short but important post - I HATE STYROFOAM! I absolutely HATE it. It is unnecessary, harmful to humans, AND harmful to the environment. I am trying to cut it out of my life completely and am researching how I can get other (larger) participants in society to do so as well. Some styrofoam comes into my life unbidden - like in packaging in the mail. This I strive to re-use and try to remember to ask sellers not to use if I'm ordering from them. I'm also getting all my meat from local farmers and butchers - so that stops that excess packaging right there. But recently I've been going out to lunch with colleges and I've had trouble finishing my meals. Then I'm left with a conundrum - should I leave my leftovers to reside in the garbage of the establishment, or should I tote them home in a one-use-only styrofoam container?

This is my solution - BRING MY OWN CONTAINER! It got me some funny looks from my friends - but I don't care! Now I get to bring my leftovers home for my husband instead of forcing myself to eat until I feel sick! I've also taken to talking to the managers of places (much to the amusement of others) about my frustration.

I'm never offensive - I still feel politeness is important - but I do want my opinion to be heard and for restaurants to change. It is not any more expensive to use plastic containers that can be locally recycled to house a patron's leftovers and I think more food emporiums should change over. I'm now filling out those comment cards a lot!

I also now own a number of travel mugs to stop my trash creation whenever I want a cup of coffee (though trying to find fair trade coffee is another frustration). Whenever I 'forget' my mug - I buy another one to add to my collection. This is happening less frequently now I know it's going to 'cost' me. One final note - I DID look up where, if anywhere, I could recycle polystyrene (styrofoam) and found this awesome site: If you go into their search engine and type in your product and location you can (hopefully) find a recycling centre near you. I've found a place called Intercon Solutions in Scugog that takes plastic bags as well as many other items including styrofoam peanuts!