Archive for the ‘Consumerism’ Category

Earthgauge Radio January 17: Keith Stewart of Greenpeace and Alex Hebert of

January 18, 2013 1 comment

Earthgauge Radio returns this week with Keith Stewart of Greenpeace who will tell us about the December 2011 letter he obtained through an Access to Information request from oil companies to the Harper government requesting changes to some of Canada’s environmental laws. And with the omnibus Budget Bills of the last year, Stewart says that Canada’s Conservative government was more than happy to oblige.

We also talk to Alex Hebert of SwitchHop to learn how you can reduce energy consumption in your home (and your energy bill!) with an amazing new online tool that tracks your energy use in real-time.

Alex Hebert (right click here to download):

We also hear a 2012 extreme weather report from Alex Smith of Radio EcoShock and we have our usual update on local environmental events and campaigns from Ecology Ottawa.

Earthgauge Radio airs Thursday mornings from 7-8 AM on CKCU 93.1 in Ottawa. Podcasts on iTunes and Stream live on Check out our Facebook page at where we post environmental news stories from around the world.

Right click here to download today’s show.

Categories: Conservation, Consumerism, Earthgauge radio, Energy, Oil, Podcasts, Politics, Tar sands Tags: Alex Hebert, , , Keith Stewart, SwitchHop

December 20, 2012: Buy Nothing Christmas and the shark fin import ban in Canada

December 21, 2012 Leave a comment

This week on Earthgauge Radio, I have a feature interview with Aiden Enns of We discuss some ideas about how you can have a “greener” and less stressful holiday season. I also have an update from NDP MP Fin Donnelly on his private member’s Bill C-380 to ban the import of shark fins to Canada.

Click the audio player above to stream the show or right click here to download.

Part 1 – Fin Donnelly on his efforts to ban the import of shark fins to Canada

One year ago Fin Donnelly, the NDP MP for New Westminster – Coquitlam in BC, introduced legislation to prohibit the import of shark fins to Canada. Bill C-380 is a private member’s bill that is now slated to go forward to parliamentary committees in February, after which it will go to a vote in the House of Commons. It is estimated that up to 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins, often by a practice called shark finning, where the fins are cut off the shark and the body is dumped back into the ocean to die. In 2009, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature revealed that over one-third of all shark species are threatened with extinction as a result of the inhumane practice of shark finning.

A Canadian ban on the import of shark fins would follow similar legislation in various jurisdictions around the world. Most recently, the European Parliament voted to close loopholes in the European Union ban on shark finning. I attended a screening of the film Sharkwater recently on Parliament Hill. Fin Donnelly spoke prior to the screening and I was able to catch up with him to talk about his Bill, why he feels its so important, and the likelihood of it passing in a Conservative-dominated government.

Right click here to download the interview.

Part 2 – Buy Nothing Christmas

Huge amounts of waste are produced during the holiday season – more than any other time of year. In addition, the pressure to buy gifts, social commitments, entertaining and family expectations can make many people dread the holidays. Is there a better way to celebrate the holidays? Many people seem to think so. We’re increasingly seeing people buying fewer gifts, making their own presents, making donations to charity in lieu of gifts, or giving non-material gifts such as art lessons, theatre tickets, food and so on.

On today’s show we talk with Aiden Enns who is the co-founder of and the publisher and co-editor of Geez magazine. Buy Nothing Christmas is a national initiative dedicated to reviving the original meaning of the holiday season. They are inviting all of us to join a movement to de-commercialize Christmas and re-design a lifestyle that is richer in meaning, smaller in impact upon the earth, and greater in giving to people who are less privileged.

Earthgauge Radio airs Thursday mornings from 7-8 AM on CKCU 93.1 in Ottawa. Podcasts on iTunes and Stream live on Check us out on Facebook at

Tomorrow on Earthgauge Radio: Canadian shark fin import ban and dreaming of a green Christmas

December 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Tomorrow on Earthgauge Radio, it’s our second annual holiday special program. As you probably know, huge amounts of waste are produced during the holiday season – more than any other time of year. In addition, a lot of people find the holidays incredibly stressful. The pressure to buy gifts, social commitments, preparing meals and family expectations can make many people dread the holidays. So we’re going to talk with Aiden Enns tomorrow who is part of a national initiative called Buy Nothing Christmas, which is dedicated to reviving the original meaning of Christmas. These folks are saying no to overconsumption and they invite everyone with a thirst for change and a desire for action to join in. We’ll also have have some ideas for you about how you can be more “green” this holiday season with less waste and less stress too.

Also on the program we’ll hear an update from NDP MP Fin Donnelly on his private member’s Bill C-380 to ban the import of shark fins to Canada. The bill is expected to go forward to Parliament this coming February so we’ll find out why this issue is so important to him and how likely the bill is to pass in a Conservative-dominated House of Commons.

Tune in every Thursday morning at 7:00 AM to Ottawa’s only radio program dedicated exclusively to environmental news and commentary from here in Ottawa and around the world. Earthgauge Radio on CKCU 93.1 in Ottawa and online at Podcasts on iTunes and

The Story of Stuff

September 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Check out this video from Worth a look. Here’s the synopsis…

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.

Categories: Consumerism

Thumbs up to the NDP: MP Fin Donnelly launches petition seeking Canadian ban on shark fin imports

November 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Fin Donnelly (soon to be known as “Shark Fin” Donnelly I presume), the federal NDP’s fisheries and oceans critic and Member of Parliament for New Westminster-Coquitlam, has launched a petition seeking a ban on the importation of shark fins to Canada. “Shark populations are plummeting around the world,” Donnelly said in a news release. “An import ban would draw needed attention to this crisis and help protect them.”

This is an issue that Earthgauge has reported on in the past so it is great to see the NDP taking up the cause in Canada. In September of this year, California passed a ban on shark finning, following numerous other jurisdictions around the world. Could Canada be next to join the global movement to save sharks?

The Conservative government of Stephen Harper is not exactly known as an environmentally enlightened bunch, quite the opposite in fact. Still, this issue could actually have some traction. If there is anything that the Conservatives can be given credit for, it is their record on conservation initiatives. When there are no economic interests at stake, Harper sometimes seizes an opportunity to burnish his meager environmental credentials. Still, this will only happen if there is enough public awareness and demand for new legislation. The NDP petition is a good start. Next we will need a private member’s bill.

Here are some facts from the Huffington Post’s Francesca Koe explaining why shark finning is such a barbaric practice that must be outlawed:

Hammerhead sharks have declined by 89 percent since 1986. They are hunted for their fins, which are a delicacy in soups (for some). More than 1/3 of shark species are threatened with extinction as a result of the international shark fin trade, with some populations declined by 99%. Although 26-73 million sharks are killed every year, just for their fins, many states and nations around the world are taking bold action to stop the wasteful “finning” of sharks: Chile, one of the biggest fin exporters, recently banned shark finning in their waters, joining the Bahamas, Honduras, the Maldives and Palau. In the U.S., Hawaii passed a first-of-its-kind law banning the sale, possession, and distribution of shark fins in the state) last year, and similar measures have passed just this summer in Washington State and Oregon.

Sharks are the oceans’ apex predators, which play a critical role in the health of the ecosystems that support and feed people across the globe… A shark’s value is squandered when sharks are killed for short-term gain from the sale of their fins. By stopping the fin trade, we can help put an end to this type of destruction in international waters.

For more info on sharks, check out this great website of the organization Oceana, which works to protect the world’s oceans.

iWaste: the real cost of music and how you can trim the bill

July 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Love your iPhone, iPod or some other MP3 player? Great. But what are you going to do when it comes time to get rid of it? Did you know many electronic gadgets such as MP3 players contain heavy metals and other toxic chemicals that are not safe to simply throw out in the trash?

The latest issue of Alternatives journal, on the theme of Music and the Environment, includes my article on digital waste in the music industry. There are some solutions emerging to help reduce the production of electronic waste and for the safe disposal of MP3 players. The problems is that many people simply don’t know about the options that exist. We still have a long way to go. I’ve posted the full article below and here is an excerpt:

The explosion of portable MP3 players over the last few years has created a host of new problems. Yes, CDs contain metals and petroleum-derived plastics, but MP3 players contain heavy metals and other toxic chemicals, such as lead, cadmium, mercury and brominated flame retardants, which have been linked to health ailments including kidney damage and neurological impairment. When MP3 players are discarded in landfills, these chemicals can leach into groundwater. Adding to the problem is the short life span of most MP3 players. With 300 million iPods sold since 2002 and a virtual stranglehold on worldwide digital music sales thanks to iTunes, Apple has been singled out by green groups that have accused the company of encouraging the “planned obsolescence” of its ubiquitous gadgets.

The real cost of music, and how you can trim the bill.

I download almost all of my music these days from iTunes, and rarely visit a music retailer. It seems that I’m not alone. Compact disc sales in North America have dropped 52 per cent since 2000. Digital downloads, on the other hand, increased 13 per cent in 2010, and digital sales now represent more than a quarter of the music industry’s global income. The transition to digital music means less aluminum goes into CD production, paper liner notes disappear, and fewer environmentally damaging plastics are used to make discs, jewel cases, vinyl records and cassette tapes. What’s more, digital music has the potential to reduce the energy used to produce and deliver music to consumers, all of which must surely be good for the environment, right?

Read more…

2011 Earth Day Canada Outstanding Commitment to the Environment Award Winner – Laure Waridel

May 11, 2011 Leave a comment

At the request of Alternatives Journal, I had the privilege of speaking recently with Laure Waridel who is this year’s winner of the Earth Day Canada Outstanding Commitment to the Environment Award.

Laure Waridel was one of MacLean’s magazine’s 25 young Canadians who are already changing our world. After attending the Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992, Waridel helped found Equiterre, a Quebec non-profit organization with a mission to build a grassroots movement that promotes individual and collective choices that are sustainable and socially responsible. She is an inspiring social entrepreneur, activist, writer, environmentalist, and radio and TV commentator.

Her books to date include ‘Coffee with Pleasure: Just Java and World Trade‘, ‘Achetez c’est voter‘ and ‘L’envers de l’assiette‘. In 2008, Equiterre introduced the Laure Waridel Bursary for students committed to pursuing and disseminating research on environmental and social action. This year the bursary is worth $9000. It recognizes Waridel’s outstanding contribution to advancing and disseminating research on the environmental and social issues promoted by Equiterre with a view towards sustainable development.

Laure hold a degree in sociology and international development from McGill University and a Masters degree in law and environmental studies from the University of Victoria. She is currently doing a PhD at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

To download the interview, right click here and select ‘Save as’ or ‘Save target as.’

Environmentalists Warn of Natural Debt as Budget Cuts Loom – TIME

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Environmentalists Warn of Natural Debt as Budget Cuts Loom – TIME

“But the truly scary possibility is that the collapse could come quite suddenly, after what may seem to be a long period of global prosperity. It would only be in retrospect, after the fall, that we would see that what we thought was success was built on eating into our capital, like a consumer maxing out his credit cards to buy a second house. The global rise in food prices, which have hit their highest level globally in several decades, might be an early sign that the agricultural system that sustains (some more than others) nearly 7 billion people with the help of fertilizers and irrigation may be hitting its limits. “When the crisis hits, we’ll act rapidly, but by then it might be too late for hundreds of millions or even billions of people,” says William Rees, an ecologist at UBC.

What’s amazing to me, though, is that the very politicians who are so worried about the public debt — and who want deep spending cuts now to save our future, whatever the cost — utterly dismiss the idea that we could face an equal crisis of natural debt.”


Could the digital music revolution be good for the environment?

March 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Interview with Casey Harrell of Greenpeace International

I download almost all my music these days (legally!) and rarely visit a music retailer anymore. It would seem I’m not alone. For the fourth straight year, CD sales in North America dropped significantly in 2010 and total album sales are down 52% since 2000.

Digital downloads on the other hand increased 13% last year, continuing an upward trend. That means less aluminum is needed for CD production, less plastic for jewel cases and no more paper liner notes. What’s more, digital music has the potential to reduce the energy requirements of producing and delivering music to consumers. The transition to digital music must surely be good for the environment, right?

Well, it’s not quite so simple. The explosion of portable MP3 players over the last few years has created a host of new problems. To begin with, these players can contain various heavy metals and toxic chemicals such as lead, cadmium, mercury and brominated flame retardents (BFRs) that are much more harmful to the environment than CDs. These materials can leach into ground water and have been linked to health ailments such as kidney damage and neurological impairment.

Adding to the problem is the short life span of most MP3 players. Having sold nearly 300 million iPods since introducing them in 2002, Apple has been singled out by environmental groups for encouraging the “planned obsolescence” of their products. Rather than replacing old batteries or repairing defective iPods, neither of which is convenient or cheap, consumers simply buy the latest model and discard old ones.

To discuss this issue further, I recently spoke with Casey Harrell who is a toxics campaigner for Greenpeace International. We discussed his organization’s Greener Electronics Campaign, which provides a wealth of information on e-waste, what happens after it is thrown away, which companies are top and bottom of the toxic product class and the solutions to the problem. Greenpeace also produces a very informative Guide to Greener Electronics, which ranks the 18 top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and games consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change.

The transition to digital music may well prove to be environmentally beneficial, but we’re not there yet as Casey explains. Regulations on the use and disposal of toxic materials, extended producer responsibility laws, eco-certifications, improved product durability and better communications of recycling options are all needed to make the industry truly green.

To download the interview, right click here and select ‘Save as’ or ‘Save target as’.

If you’re interested in learning more about e-waste and what you can do about it, here are some additional resources.

If you live in one of the following Canadian provinces you can participate in free electronics recycling by clicking the links below:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • Nova Scotia
  • Saskatchewan

Natural Resources Canada Information on Recycling End of Life Electronics Equipment

Electronic Product Stewardship Canada – Electronics Product Stewardship Canada (EPS Canada) is developing a national electronics end-of-life program in Canada.

Make IT Green – Greenpeace cloud computing campaign

Un-friend Coal – Greenpeace campaign to make Facebook run on clean energy. Facebook announced in February 2010 that it is building a massive data centre in Oregon, U.S., packed full of the latest energy efficient computers to serve the hundreds of millions of friends connecting on their social networking website. But the company plans to run the place on electricity made by burning coal.

Apple’s environmental and recycling policies – Info on Apple’s carbon footprint, energy use, recycling and take-back programs and more

Take my Mac – The organization running this web site will buy all your Apple products. Whether it’s a brand new iPhone or an old iBook laptop, they will  take it with no hassle without the time and frustration of selling it yourself. Plus, we even take products that have no value or that are damaged.

U.S. National Center for Electronics Recycling – The National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER) is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the development and enhancement of a national infrastructure for the recycling of used electronics in the U.S.

The National Geographic Green Guide –  an online environmental information resource that provides every day living tips on waste, transportation, home and garden, travel, food and so on.
The Consumer Electronics Association (U.S.) Digital Tips – A green guide to consumer electronics

Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool – EPEAT is a method for consumers to evaluate the effect of a product on the environment. It ranks products as gold, silver or bronze based on a set of environmental performance criteria. – provides after-market battery kits for Apple products

Small Dog Electronics – repairs or resells Apple products

The Story of Electronics

January 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Check out this cool and educational animation.

The Story of Electronics takes on the electronics industry’s “design for the dump” mentality and champions product “take back” to spur companies to make less toxic, more easily recyclable and longer lasting products.

Categories: Consumerism, Waste
%d bloggers like this: