The Power of Eco

January 12, 2003

By Michael Jessen

Many people aspire to be better stewards of the air, land, water and communities of their region. The need for responsible stewardship has never been more urgent. Unless we develop a deeper reverence for life and learn to be less materialistic, our common home -- the planet Earth -- may suffer unimaginable damage.

The words ecology and economics are derived from the same Greek origin -- oikos -- which means household. We can put our own earthly household in order by changing our own lifestyles and bringing them back into alignment with ecological and economic values. We need a world that offers full human rights and equitable and sustainable human development.

Many of our everyday activities can be done in a less destructive way. In the following A to Z format, I offer a selection of information that can positively influence your impact on the planet. Some of the selections are organizations, books, or magazines that offer positive solutions.

A is for automobile. Driving is a necessity for many people, but what kind of car you drive makes a big difference. What is your SUV doing to the world? See http://cbc.ca/stories/2003/01/05/hybridcars_030105 and see www.detroitproject.com/ and read Arianna Huffington's article at www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=14906.

B is for buildings. Our buildings are our biggest energy wasters. They can and must be built better. See http://oikos.com/index.lasso. According to energy guru Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute (www.rmi.org), all the energy produced by Alaska's North Slope oil field is equivalent to the energy that leaks out of the doors and windows of America's poorly built buildings.

C is for composting. In the summer of 2002 a study of residential waste brought to Trail's McKelvey Creek Landfill from the communities of Trail, Warfield, Montrose, Fruitvale and Rossland showed that an average of 42% of the waste was compostable. A further 18% was either recyclable or refundable meaning that 60% of the waste didn't belong in the landfill! See www.ns.ec.gc.ca/udo/paydirt.html for basic information or visit the Composting Council of Canada web site at www.compost.org.

D is for dish washing. Doing the simple things right is important. If you are still washing dishes by hand, your choice of dishwashing liquid is important. See Seventh Generation www.seventhgeneration.com/ sign up for their free newsletter Non-Toxic Times. Many of our dishwashing liquids are petroleum based and contribute to depletion of a finite resource as well as contributing to global warming. "If every household in the U.S. replaced just one bottle of 28 oz. petroleum based dishwashing liquid with Seventh Generation's 28 oz. vegetable based product, we could save 118,700 barrels of oil, enough to heat and cool 6,800 U.S. homes for a year." Seventh Generation dishwashing liquid is available in Nelson at the Kootenay Country Cooperative Store on Baker Street.

E is for Earth Policy Institute. This organization, whose president and senior researcher is Lester Brown, the founder of the Worldwatch Institute, has excellent, informative publications. See www.earth-policy.org.

F is for footprints. We all leave them, but they don't have to be so big. See www.audubonpopulation.org/sections/news/consumehabitat.cfm and http://wcs.org/media/general/human_footprint2.pdf.

G is for global warming. Global climate change has driven animals to move northward and shifted plants to bloom earlier in the spring, two recent studies concluded. 2002 was also the second warmest year on record. See http://cbc.ca/stories/2003/01/02/warming030102 and the World Meteorological Organization at www.wmo.ch/index-en.html.

H is for HIV-Aids. Every single day in Africa, 9,600 men, women, and children (equivalent to the population of Nelson) die of AIDS-related diseases. As David Lewis, the United Nations special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa stated recently, this is "mass murder by complacency." The typical African is dead three years from the time she or he learns they have the disease. But the world has been ignoring this issue for a long time. See www.icad-cisd.com/pdf/beyondtrade.pdf which contains the following quote: "The refusal to respond to the absolute limits of our capability to the current HIV/AIDS contagion in Africa and other most seriously affected countries is the moral and perhaps the legal equivalent of genocide." Remarks by Dr. John W. Foster, a co-founder of the InterAgency Coalition on AIDS and Development (ICAD), currently Principal Researcher - Civil Society at the North-South Institute, Ottawa, Canada, Second Peoples' Summit of the Americas Forum on the State Withdrawal and Equitable Redistribution of Wealth in Quebec City, April 17, 2001. We must demand that our governments contribute the dollars they have previously promised to allow 30 million infected Africans access to the anti-retroviral drugs needed to make it a manageable condition.

I is for inkjet cartridges. If you use a computer, you likely use these in your printer. Refill them as much as possible. In Nelson, Cowan Office Supplies takes back old inkjet and toner cartridges, returns them in bulk to suppliers who will then pay back an average of $1 to $10 per cartridge. Cowan's donates 100 percent of the proceeds to a local charities and generated over $1,000.00 in 2002.

J is for junk mail - want to stop it? It's as simple as putting a "NO JUNK MAIL sticker in or on your mailbox. See www.rdkb.com/recover/house_junkmail.html. Write Canadian Direct Marketing Association, 1 Concorde Gate, Suite 607, Don Mills, Ontario M3C 3N6 asking to be removed from mailing lists.

K is for kenaf. The fibre from this East Indian hibiscus plant has traditionally been used to make paper or cloth. Now automaker Toyota will use it to make plastic. Toyota combined kenaf fibres with polylactic acid, which also is made from plants, to develop the new plastic. Toyota will use the new plastic in its Prius (see www.toyota.ca/cgi-bin/WebObjects/WWW.woa/15/wo/Home.Vehicles.Go.Prius-tx7000eJ7005i300R7/3.17) sedan, a highly fuel-efficient car with a hybrid engine that runs on both gasoline and electricity. The new material will be used for the sedan's doors and other parts of the car's interior. See www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/20030104wo12.htm.

L is for labels. Health Canada has established mandatory nutritional labelling for all packaged foods, which enables consumers to compare nutrients at their supermarkets and corner groceries. See http://cbc.ca/stories/2002/12/31/Consumers/packaging_food021231. Now we need Canada to ratify the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (www.biodiv.org/biosafety/protocol.asp) that it agreed to do during the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity on January 29, 2000. The Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by genetically modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.

M is for Mindfulness in the Marketplace, a great new book about consumerism. See www.mindfulmarkets.com.

N is for Natural Capital, the material and services that Nature provides and makes our life on Earth possible. We do, however, need to take better care of our Natural Capital. See www.conservationeconomy.net/content.cfm?PatternID=17.

O is for onearth, the publication of the Natural Resources Defense Council. See www.nrdc.org or www.nrdc.org/onearth/03win/default.asp.

P is for pesticides. Environmentalists and pesticide manufacturers both say they like Canada's updated pesticide legislation. See http://cbc.ca/stories/2003/01/02/Consumers/pest_030102. It is, however, possible to move beyond pesticides, see www.beyondpesticides.org.

Q is for quote. "When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fail -- Think of it always." - Mahatma Gandhi

R is for recycling, the everyday way you can do something to help the environment. Visit the Recycling Council of BC at www.rcbc.bc.ca and the GrassRoots Recycling Network at www.grrn.org.

S is for "Sustainable Planet: Solutions for the 21st Century," an excellent new book. See www.newdream.org/publications/susplan.html and an interview with editor Juliet Schor at www.bc.edu/bc_org/rvp/pubaf/chronicle/v11/d13/schor.html and visit the Center for a New American Dream at www.newdream.org.

T is for tooth brushing. The kind of toothbrush and toothpaste you use can make a difference. See www.lotuspress.com/images/FuchsPOP/fuchs.htm and www.tomsofmaine.com.

U is for urban growth. As more people move to cities, it is important to plan properly. See www.smartgrowth.bc.ca/ and you'll even find an article about Nelson's waterfront.

V is for values. All businesses and organizations must have them. Eco Commerce (http://ecocommerce.net/) can help. Nike today openly admits that the anti-sweatshop campaign against it succeeded in motivating change within the company. "I don't think Nike would have made the kind of progress that it has made if we hadn't been attacked," Nike vice-president Maria Eitel told the Australian Financial Review in June 2002. "People will always do the minimum to be successful... There are not a lot of companies making progress on social issues that haven't been forced to." An e-mail newsletter with news and discussion focusing on corporate social responsibility globally, looking at the companies in the news and the emerging issues is linked to the website http://www.mallenbaker.net and produced every two weeks.

W is for watches. Yes there are solar powered watches. See Eco Drive watches at www.webjeweller.com/watches/citizen/eco-drive.shtml.

X is for factor X, an index of eco-efficiency used by Mitsubishi Electric to reduce the negative environmental impacts of its products. See www.global.mitsubishielectric.com/about/environ/order/pdf/2002pdf/report2002_16.pdf. Also see www.environmental-center.com/magazine/kluwer/jspd/art1.pdf and http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/natres/020410stakeholdersdiscussionpaper.pdf.

Y is for Yes magazine, a most positive publication at www.futurenet.org/.

Z is for Zero Waste. Eliminating garbage is a very welcome concept. New Zealand has adopted it as a goal and the biggest reason is the work of the Zero Waste New Zealand Trust, see www.zerowaste.co.nz.

Michael Jessen is a Nelson consultant who specializes in helping companies and communities become more sustainable. He can be reached by telephone at 250-229-5632 or by e-mail at Michael@zerowaste.ca. His business -- Zero Waste Services -- has an award-winning web site at www.zerowaste.ca.


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