Wacko tree huggers unite!

As I write this, I am sitting at my desk. Looking at my paper Starbucks cup, I notice a printed message that says:

“So-called “global warning” is just a secret ploy by wacko tree huggers to make N. America energy independent, clean our air and water, improve fuel efficiency of our vehicles, kick-start 21st century industries, and make our cities safer and more livable. Don’t let them get away with it!”

(Chip Giller, environmentalist, check out www.grist.org)

Sadly I know some folks who would actually take this tongue-in-cheek sentiment seriously…

Earth Day is next month, and April 20th will see Earth Day Canada’s annual free mega event at Downsview Park (check out www.earthday.ca/pub/events). Our planet has changed so much in the past year, which was the warmest year on record (just as the past 12 years have been). Our industry alone hungrily consumed 900 million trees for pulp and paper. Atmospheric carbon was the highest in 650,000 years. Forests disappeared at the rate of two acres per second and still do. We have all seen the pictures of drowning polar bears as the polar sea ice melted. There are droughts and wildfires, floods and species extinction on a massive scale—if all this did not change the global-warming-doubters’ views, then perhaps the destruction of a major American city by heat-driven hurricane forces may have. We should ask them to live near a bayou.

What we really need is more than one annual Earth Day event—we need to incorporate the essence of Earth Day into everyday life, at our businesses and homes. Our politicians do not have the will to do what is required; they have their own political agenda to worry about. In fact, our current federal government has actually closed down some significant environmental programs that helped support initiatives by our business community. Earth-saving lifestyle change must evidently be a grassroots, bottom-up movement, and a true lifestyle paradigm shift. It is down to you and me, and with a collective will to change, we can make a difference.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which represents the interests of small- and medium-sized privately-owned enterprises (SME’s) conducted a huge national environmental survey last year. This is true “grassroots” stuff. Over 10,826 respondees took up the call, including a number of printers. The published report states that there is a strong belief among most SME’s that it is possible to grow the economy and protect the environment at the same time. The report is therefore called “Achieving Eco-prosperity”. It contains a lot of terrific examples, ideas, and suggestions of what the independent business community is doing or planning to do. The CFIB’s report also recommends convincing all levels of government to enhance communication about environmental opportunities, simplify regulations, and reduce the paper burden and bureaucracy inherent in many environmental initiatives. In other words, take a common sense approach and deal with the most urgent issues now.

But how do you sustain Earth Day every day? Following are ten suggestions, from various sources, in no particular order:

1I like the idea of having an Earth-Hour every day: turn off TVs and computers, all unnecessary lights, and reduce the heat to a degree below normal room temperature. Enjoy each other’s conversation, read, or take a walk. Open windows and shut off the A/C in the summer. Most of the 25 tons of CO2 that each Canadian generates annually comes from our homes.

2According to the U.S Department of Energy, 75% of all hydro consumed in the home is standby power, used to keep all those DVD players, sound systems, and computer monitors running. Did you know that the average desktop computer can consume up to 6 kWh of power per day, not including the monitor? (To put it in perspective, a fridge consumes about 12 kWh of power per day.) If you use it for four hours a day and then turn it off, you could save up to $80.00 per year and reduce your CO2 emissions by up to 83% for each computer.

3Plug all computer, printing, photocopiers and fax machines into a power bar with a surge protector for each work station. One switch turns them all off. Kill all the lights at quitting time.

4Many cities have anti idling by-laws, a 3 minute limit is usual. But don’t let your vehicles idle for more than 10 seconds, any longer and you are using more gas than necessary for restarting. Post “No Idling” signs at your loading docks. If every driver of a light duty vehicle avoided idling by five minutes a day we collectively save 1.8 million litres of fuel per day, almost 4500 tonnes of GHG emissions, and $1.7 million in fuel costs each day (assuming fuel costs of $0.95/L).

5Avoid drive-through line ups, my pet peeve. All those cars spewing carbon monoxide, CO2, nitrous oxides and VOC’s just for a coffee! Is it really that hard to park, pop in, and pick up the coffee? You might actually talk to another human being, and you will probably save time. If you idle for ten minutes in the line up, your large double-double will cost a lot more than $1.38 in gas and wear on your car.

6Replace incandescent (regular) light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. which use 75% less energy. They last many years longer, too—but don’t put them in the regular garbage, as they contain mercury. You’ll need to recycle them at a white goods depot—look on your municipality’s website for further information.

7Promote and use paper with high recycled content. It uses 60% less energy to produce than virgin pulp paper. Each ton purchased saves 4,000 kWh of energy, 7,000 gallons of water, and 17 trees. Promoting FSC-certified papers helps protect our forests, and FSC-certified paper with post consumer recycled content is the best of both worlds.

8Do not to print out e-mails unless absolutely necessary.

9Install an Enerflow harmonic electrical balancer at your facility; it will result in 8%—10% more efficient use of electricity, potentially saving thousands of kWh and related greenhouse gas emissions.

10Practice P2—treat it on site. Solvent recyclers, UF membrane filters for treating waste liquids or recycling fountain solutions, pH neutralizers, and CTP developer recyclers are some of the pollution prevention (P2) options available that also save money.

Finally, get involved with your own Environmental Event in April, involve suppliers and clients, promote and talk it up on your web sites or newsletters. Do something green!

And have a great Earth Day, week, month, year…