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Guy Dauncey, Editor
395 Conway Road, Victoria, BC
CANADA V9E 2B9
Tel (250) 881-1304
www.earthfuture.com

Executive director of The Solutions Project

 
Econews

Newsletter No. 168 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - March 2007

Now available as PDF's! Front (PDF121kb) - Middle (PDF299kb) - Green Diary (PDF116kb)


WHAT’S YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT?

It’s something many of us want to know - what can we do? How much difference will it make if I change a light bulb, or leave the car at home?

Now that the government of BC has declared its commitment to reduce BC’s greenhouse gas emissions by 33% by 2020, we all need to play our part. But which part? And how can I calculate my emissions?

It’s quite simple, really. There are six main ways that we contribute to global warming: (1) Driving. (2) Flying. (3) The energy we use in our homes. (4) The wastes we send to the landfill. (5) The stuff we buy. (6) The food we eat.

Do you want to know how much CO2 your family produced last year? Get yourself a notepad, and we’ll start.

1. Your Driving. Each litre of gas produces 2.34 kg of CO2. If your car does 25 mpg (9 km per litre), and you drove 15,000 km last year, you used 1,667 litres of gas, which produced 3900 kg of CO2 – almost 4 tonnes. So take an odometer reading, estimate your car’s fuel efficiency, and do the maths.

Every litre not burnt (every 9 km not driven) saves 2.34 kg of CO2 (250 grams per km). Public transport produces 60 grams CO2 per km. For cycling, it’s a healthy zero. 

2. Your Flying. If you go to www.offsetters.ca, you can calculate the CO2 for each flight. Victoria to Toronto return is 750kg (I believe this is too low; it’s closer to 2 tonnes). You can do the same at www.terrapass.com. For the year ahead, ask "Is this flight really necessary? Could I do this meeting by teleconferencing? Could we holiday closer to home?"

3a. Home Energy Electricity. BC Hydro produces most of its electricity from hydro, resulting in only 24 grams of CO2 per kWh. It imports 12% from Alberta, where the mix of 80% coal + 12% gas produces 861 grams of CO2 per kwh. The average BC household uses 10,700 kilowatt-hours a year, so that comes to 226 kg from BC plus 1,284 kg from Alberta, totaling 1.5 tonnes of CO2 a year. You can fine-tune your numbers by looking at your household hydro bills.

Whenever you save electricity, however, by turning off the lights, and switching to compact fluorescent bulbs and more efficient appliances, 100% of the energy you save comes from Alberta. BC Hydro does not turn down the dams when there’s less power needed: they import less from Alberta.

So if you can reduce your power use by 15% in 2007, saving 1800 kWh, you will reduce your emissions by 1440 kg, or almost 1.5 tonnes of CO2.

Now let’s look at those light bulbs. If you replace 18 incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents, you will reduce your CO2 by 5600 kg over the 10-year life of the bulbs – 560 kg a year, or 30 kg per bulb. For insights into the best buys for all things green, go to www.thegreenguide.com and dig in.

An old inefficient fridge in a basement might use 1,000 kwh a year, so if you unplug it, you will reduce your annual emissions by 800 kg of CO2.

3b. Your Home Energy– Oil. If you heat your home with oil, find your fuel bills, and calculate your emissions at 2.6 kg of CO2 per litre. An average single family home uses 3,000 litres of oil a year, producing 7.8 tonnes of CO2. If you make your home 25% more efficient, you’ll save 2 tonnes. So if you can reduce your power use by 15% in 2007, saving 1600 kWh, you will reduce your CO2 emissions by 1377 kg, or almost 1.4 tonnes.

3c. Home EnergyGas. If you use gas for cooking or heating, find your gas bill, and calculate it at 52 kg of CO2 per gigajoule. (Propane = 63 kg per GJ)

4. The Waste We Landfill. In the landfill, most waste breaks down, releasing methane gas, which is another powerful greenhouse gas. Here in Victoria, the CRD captures the methane and uses it to generate carbon-neutral electricity, which should be done everywhere. Every time you recycle, however, the materials can be used again, which saves a lot of energy. So do whatever you can to recycle more.

5. The Stuff We Buy. Almost everything we buy has a carbon footprint. The materials were harvested or mined, and then it was manufactured, packaged, and shipped to the store. Imported beer, when there are such great locally brewed ales here in Victoria, makes no sense. You are using carbon fuels to ship flavoured water from Germany, or Nelson, or wherever.

6. The Food We Eat. Imported food has a far higher carbon footprint than locally grown food. Locally grown organic food is best, since organic soil stores far more carbon than chemically pumped soil. Beef has a high carbon footprint, since cows burp methane. An average meat diet produces 1.5 tonnes more CO2 a year than a vegan diet.

7. Offsetting. When you have calculated your emissions, you can offset them to become "carbon neutral" by investing in a project (around $12 per tonne) which will reduce the same amount of CO2 somewhere else. I use the Solar Electric Light Fund www.self.org, there’s also www.offsetters.ca, www.cleanairpass.com, www.carboncounter.org, and www.carbonbalanced.org

Good luck! It’s an important process.

Guy Dauncey


ECONEWS

AG00119_.gif (2913 bytes)A monthly newsletter, funded by your donations, that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, & the joys of personal fulfillment, protected and guided by active citizenship.

Donations can be sent to EcoNews, 395 Conway Rd, Victoria, BC, V9E 2B9. For a receipt send stamped addressed envelope.

Donations can also be sent by PayPal, please send to GuyDauncey@EarthFuture.com, be sure to 'earmark' it to EcoNews.

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A big thankyou to Katy Bloomfield, Corre Alice, Ali Sproule, Maggie Salmond, Chris Bullock, Joan Hurwood, Bernice Packford, Julia Lissau, Richard Pearson, Taania Dancer, Lawrence Smith, May Murray, Jean Nicoll, Sheila Radford, Ian Brown, Helen Turbett, Derek & Judy Spearing, Bob & Wilda Cottam, Ocean Lum, Anne Tasko, Patrick Fawkes, Colin Graham, Pauline Kenneally, Martin Weideman, Yvonne Bondarchuk, Marg Simons, Barbara Scott, Milt Wallace, Ann Johnston, Alan Philip, Roberta Hower, Graham Krause, Cherry Davies, Andrew Pringle, Focus Magazine, David van Stolk, John Bowers, Jocelyn Braithwaite, Ann Gower and Janet Gray..


THE ECO-CORNER
$5/line (non-profits, low-income free)
1" box ad $45, $2" box ad $90

* Charming guest room, $30/night. Cook St Village, ocean. 250-361-3102

* Life/Work Renewal Coach 388-7210 Free newsletter BruceElkin.com

* Pacific Gardens Cohousing Nanaimo 250-754-3060 www.pacificgardens.ca

* Seeking partners to buy land for eco-living erainwalker@hotmail.com

* Taxes: Yes, it's that time! Support our green community. Accountant John Bowers 383-7727

* For Sale: 3 BR rancher on 6.5 acres, Black Creek. Backup electrical system with PV, backup water system, 30'x45' greenhouse, large growing area. Beautiful property $325,000.  250-337-5940; mbwall@island.net

* Relax and unwind at one of our 5 incredible Nature Cottages.  All proceeds to The Land Conservancy’s  conservation goals. (TLC)  www.conservancy.bc.ca/cottages

* Global Village Store seeks part-time coordinator with good interpersonal, organizational, computer skills. Pick up job description at 535 Pandora Ave. Deadline March 30. 

* Are you a Vancity member? It’s election time, and there are three candidates with the Action Team (that has made Vancity the most successful credit union in North America) who I strongly recommend for your support: Jasbir Sandhu (#4); Blair Redline (#8); and Virginia Weiler (#10). See www.voteaction.ca

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Seeds of Victoria

Certified Organic – Locally Grown
See the 2007 colour seed catalogue
Carolyn Herriot 250-881-1555
www.earthfuture.com/gardenpath

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WHEN GREEN PEOPLE DIE

The last few years have sadly seen a number of deeply committed green and social activists, residents of Victoria, who have died, often unexpectedly: Roy McFarlane, Ellie Boisvert; David White; Jannit Rabinowitch; Andy Kesteloo; and now, tragically, First Nations elder Harriet Nahanee. So here’s an idea, and a call for a volunteer. I would like to see a website, where the family and friends of people who have died who were committed to social and environmental change can post photos, stories, poems and memories, so that they live on as a memory and an inspiration to the rest of us. I’m sure it would be possible to find the funding needed: it just needs a champion to step forward and say "I’ll do that". Call me – Guy 881-1304

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LIFTSHARE

Don’t you love it when a problem you’ve been troubled with is suddenly solved? My problem started when I went to a Sierra Club event at the Sooke Harbour House some years ago, and thought how stupid it was that we had all driven from Victoria, as there was no easy way to share rides.

Ever since then, I have been on the lookout for software that would make ride-sharing easy. I recently found www.shareadrive.ca, but the best by far seems to be Liftshare.org, started in England by Ali Clayburn, a mechanical engineering student, in 1998. After 8 years of slow development, Liftshare has totally taken off. It has 154,000 members who will share 33 million trips in 2007, covering 58 million kilometers, saving 11,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. In 2006 alone its membership grew by 50,000.

Registration for the public needs to be free to make it work, so at first, Ali couldn’t see a way to pay for the effort he was putting in. Then in 1999 the organizers of the Glastonbury Festival approached him to build a branded car-share website for people traveling to the Festival. It was a huge success, and is saving 15,000 car-trips to the Festival each year. This gave Ali the break he needed. Liftshare now has 875 clients including governments, hospitals, universities, schools and communities, all with their own branded ride-share schemes, from football clubs to corporate giants like IKEA. This provides the income to supports a team of ten, enabling the business to grow. In rural areas with no bus service, it provides a lifeline to people who can’t afford a car. After the London bombings in July 2005, it helped thousands when all public transport was suspended.

Liftshare’s success has pushed it onto the government’s agenda for tackling climate change, where it is now considered a prime way to reduce emissions. One happy customer spent two minutes on-line finding a travel buddy, and over 5 years he has saved $35,000 by sharing rides. Ali has been winning all sorts of awards, including the 2005 Enterprising Young Brit of the Year. An analysis shows that if car occupancy was raised from 1.7 to 2 people per car, the UK would save 9.9 million tonnes of CO2 per year. Picture it - a well established system of lift-sharing here in BC could:

* Cut congestion on busy commuter roads, and help eliminate the need for the multi-million $$ Gateway Project.

* Allow universities to cut their parking space by 50%, and use the land to build green, affordable student housing.

* Allow hospitals to expand without needing more land.

* Eliminate the need for BC Ferries to build more ferries. Et-cet-era

How do we get Liftshare into Canada? Ali tells me he is ready to replicate the scheme in other countries, and if there’s someone with a good head for business who would like to take up the challenge, Ali would like to talk to you. See www.liftshare.org

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HORNBY’S ECO-LODGE

The next time you’re on Hornby, you must visit the new spiral Eco-Lodge. It’s a worm composting toilet facility at their Recycling Centre, built like a straw bale post and beam structure with walls made from bales of crushed tin cans, banana boxes filled with old newspapers, computer printers, toasters, you-name-it: you can see it all through a plexiglass window. Gathered rainwater flushes the basins and urinals, and irrigates an evapo-transpiration wetland.

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BC’s NEW ENERGY PLAN

Way to go!! With the Throne Speech, BC has now adopted the most ambitious climate action targets in North America. 33% below today’s level (10% below 1990) by 2020. (Europe’s goal is 20% below 1990 by 2020). The coal-fired power plants are gone, since they will can’t meet the new requirement for 100% capture and burial of CO2 (yea!), and there’s a strong sense that green power is here to stay.

The Energy Plan also includes a commitment for BC to adopt Ontario’s "Standard Offer" program from which makes it easy for small producers of wind, solar, tidal etc to sell power to BC Hydro. We still need a commitment to pay the prices that matter (eg in Ontario, 11 cents per kWh for wind, 42 cents for solar), so we need to continue to work on that.

The big contradiction, however, is that the new Energy Plan commits $25 million to an Investment in Clean Energy (ICE) Fund, but the BC budget commits $263 million for the oil and gas industry - ten times more on fossil fuels than renewables. They have also committed $89 million to hydrogen, some of which may be green hydrogen, as opposed to hydrogen from natural gas.

I am not discouraged, however. Think of us like an alcoholic who has finally said, "I need to stop drinking oil". BC’s leadership has said "We’ll drink 33% less by 2020", and that’s a good start. It’s not enough (we probably need 60% by 2020), but now it’s up to all of us to help, and play our part.

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NOT HOMELESS IN MARINALEDA

It’s totally distressing that there should be people sleeping in the cold streets of Victoria, while downtown buildings sit empty. Spain has a similar housing problem. The average house costs $282,000, which is impossible for an ordinary working person, and yet there are 3 million empty houses in Spain. People buy houses to speculate, and prices get pushed ever higher.

Not in the small town of Marinaleda, Seville, however, pop’n 2,650, where the Mayor, Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, has made it possible for local people to own their own homes for $20 a month. Sanchez Gordillo is a self-confessed "leftist, anti-capitalist, utopian, environmentalist and pacifist" (just like many EcoNews readers…), who has won all seven municipal elections since the overthrow of the dictatorship in 1979.

His legal argument for affordable housing is impeccable: Article 47 of Spain’s constitution states that "All Spaniards are entitled to enjoy a decent and appropriate home. Public powers will promote the necessary conditions … to make this right effective, regulating the use of land according to the general interest to impede speculation."

How do they do it? The houses are terraced, 880 sq. feet with 980 sq. feet of courtyard (see above). The land is owned by the council, which has bought or expropriated it, and the houses are self-built "from the first brick to the last tile" by those who will live in them, or someone from their immediate family, billing the city for their labour at $51 a day. They are supported by bricklayers who teach them how to use a trowel, and they work in groups on 20 attached houses at a time, not knowing which will be theirs until the end.

The final price is $48,000, from which a typical 400 days of labour at $51 a day is subtracted, taking $21,000 off their debt. At $20 a month, they’ll need 111 years to pay it off, so they can’t sell the house until 2117, giving their children a guaranteed home.

Canada’s constitution surely needs to state, clearly and unequivocally, that every Canadian has a right to a home, and that it is the duty of the local government to ensure that this need is met, with help from the other levels of government. Then things like this might happen here, too.

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PREVENTING CANCER

There is another environmental scourge – and this one is happening inside our own bodies. There are so cancers that are related to environmental pollution. Can it be right that a baby has over 200 industrial chemicals in its blood on the day it is born? Is it any surprise that childhood cancer rates are rising, or that many adult cancer rates continue to rise?

On May 24-27, in Ottawa, Canada’s new non-profit society, Prevent Cancer Now, is holding its first major conference, when the new book Cancer: 101 Solutions to a Preventable Epidemic will also be launched. (See www.preventcancernow.ca).

As a fund-raiser for Prevent Cancer Now, Lynn Daniel and I are organizing a sponsored Run, Walk and Roll at Elk/Beaver Lake on Saturday May 12th (details later).

Also, on Monday March 12th, the Victoria Cancer Resource Centre is holding a public meeting on Prevent Cancer Now when Guy Dauncey, Dr Neil McKinney (ND naturopath) and Pat Simpson from the BC Cancer Agency will share their thoughts on what needs to be done to prevent cancer before it starts. (See Green Diary)

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HONEY BEES

There’s something very serious going wrong with America’s honey bees. In 24 states throughout the country, bees have been disappearing at an alarming rate. They are not dying – they are flying off in search of pollen and simply not returning to their colonies. One beekeeper lost half of his 100 million bees. On the west coast, bee losses are ranging from 30 to 60%, with some in Texas losing more than 70%.

This is very worrying, since according to the American Beekeeping Federation, honey bees pollinate a third of all the fruit, nuts and vegetables we consume. The researchers are scrambling to find an answer, naming it "colony collapse disorder".

It is being caused by viruses? Fungus? Poor bee nutrition? Chemical pesticides? Are the insecticides that are used to kill mites in the bee colonies harming the ability of queen bees to spawn? It is known that the queens are only living half as long as they did a few years ago. Are the bees’ immune systems being suppressed by pesticides? It certainly happens among humans, where it is a contributing cause of cancer. When honey bees die off, we are all in trouble. No honey, no food.

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THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB

Some noteworthy sites that have passed my way


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EcoNews, Guy Dauncey
395 Conway Road, Victoria
V9E 2B9
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304

Author of "Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change"
(New Society Publishers)
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