Reducing your Energy Footprint.
When talking to many people about green house gas emissions and other energy and environmental issues, it has been my observation that most people do not feel empowered to change anything. This is simply not true. Many of these ideas are unique to Vancouver but some of them might be useful outside of Canada. Not all of these ideas will necessarily be useful or good for all, but I do want to offer these to anyone who is in a position to make change.
Don’t feel helpless when you hear about climate change. I have faith in people. Arming people with sound knowledge and actionable alternativces, when given a chance to vote with their wallets, people will make the right choices. They buy hybrid cars, purchase organic foods and clean energy. This page contains some tips that people can incorporate into everyday living.
Packaging Re-use: Buy from manufacturers who ship food in glass jars to use Mason-style canning jars or other re-usable glass shapes (such as drinking glasses) which can be re-used by consumers rather than recycled. It struck me as odd that only one or two companies (Catelli Pasta/Pizza Sauce and Kuhne Mustard) seem to have caught on to this trend. It makes no sense that consumers will buy a can of pizza sauce then go to another aisle to purchase canning jars if they could get both in one purchase and repurpose the container. Accounting for the unnecessary trips to buy canning/preserving jars and for trucks to deliver these items to store shelves and the energy savings can add up. The cost to existing manufacturers would be minimal – no losers here as the canning jar manufacturers would be selling to the food manufacturers.
Do not buy Disposable! There are many disposable items for sale on the shelves of stores. Opt to buy where impact is less.
a. Disposable razor blades. Alternatives – non-disposable razors. There are no valid use cases for disposable razors over non-disposables and the plastic in the handles can be reused if a consumer could simply fit in new blades.
b. Liquid plumber and all other dangerous chemical compounds for plumbing system cleansing. These are harmful to marine wildlife and compounds end up coming back into the food chain and being consumed by humans. Alternatives – compressed air, snake lines, calling a plumber.
c. Incandescent light bulbs (except certain types). Alternatives – compact fluorescent, LED. Old style bulbs waste a lot of energy dissipating it as thermal heat and light that is beyond the visible spectrum.
d. The list goes on…
Go Containerless! Do not patronize or buy into the consumption of small (200 ml or less) juice or beverage packages and require parents to use a thermos or other reusable container. While tetra packs can be recycled, the evidence suggests that the net cost is still rather high in terms of forming the packaging and using extra packaging to aggregate multiple smaller containers. A better option would be to use reusable containers for all smaller beverages.
BC Liquor Law changes – Lobby the BC liquor board to relax its monopoly over alcohol sales and allow sales of beer and wine in most grocery stores. Right now, many citizens are driving longer trips to get to the small number of liquor outlets in Vancouver. The driving that could be reduced is significant. If each citizen drove an average of 5 km less in a year, the savings of energy would be spectacular. The provincial government is stuck on this old school model of alcohol sales and BC remains one of the few locations in the world that does not allow beer and wine to be sold in grocery stores. It is time for this model to die in the name of the environment.
Reuse Packaging (Canada Post) Add packaging material recycling stations to all Canada Post outlets where people can return Styrofoam chips, air packaging, boxes and other re-useable packing materials. The big loser here would be Canada Post as they cannot keep selling new packaging materials. Big winner – all people who need packaging materials and do not have to purchase them.
Drywall Recycling Build a gypsum recycling plant and mandate that all drywall and other gypsum board waste be recycled. Included in this idea would be a fuel efficient truck fleet to pick up gypsum waste by scheduling routes to avoid owners of waste having to drive long distances to recycle. The owners would pay a small fee to cover the charge or this could be billed with the sale of new drywall.
Share, don’t own – Expand the current car co-op/Zip car type programs to include more free parking spaces to encourage community car sharing. The city has opted to test a few of these by providing special parking spaces for community (“co-op”) cars. Encourage people to use these at least as a second vehicle rather than buy a second car for part time use. Note that some people use these as their primary cars.
Lobby for Change – Begin to adopt the Israeli electric car fleet idea with battery replacement stations. The Israeli’s have the most motivation to get off foreign oil of any country in the world. They have a great plan which seems to be making sense from a physics standpoint. The scheme involves consumers buying or leasing an electric auto with a quick change battery pack that can be replaced in minutes at service stations, allowing up to 125 KM per battery. Consumers will subscribe to monthly plans.
Building Codes – All new buildings can be certified LEED Silver or higher. Offer tax incentives and extra floor space for buildings that make the highest standards where the NET energy gains are greatest. Encourage innovation.
Yeild, don’t stop – Increase the number of roundabouts where they can replace stoplights. Roundabouts do not require cars to come to a complete stop thus save energy over requiring cars to completely stop and re-accelerate. Cars also do not have to wait at red lights idling nor does the city have to provide power for the traffic lights and spend energy replacing bulbs etc.
Buy for long term! We cannot require every manufacturer who sells automobiles, major appliances, small appliances, utility vehicles and other consumer items within BC to certify their items will last at least 5 years (most warranties on items like microwave ovens are less than 1 year). But as consumers, we can buy products with the longest warranty and those products that do honor the customer by making replacement parts available at a reasonable price.
Stop using Gas! The Danish government just changed their national building code to ban the use of gas or oil heaters in all new buildings. While changing laws may not be reasonable, upgrading your hot water heater and heating systems to use electricity is not a far stretch. Most houses in Vancouver use gas to heat water. We don’t have to. Electrical water heaters do not emit GHG’s and are about as efficient as gas models.
Electric lawnmowers, not gas. Same for other small power tools such as pressure washers, weedeaters and more.
Lobby the federal government hard to increase the fuel efficiency for ALL passenger cars imported and sold in Canada starting as soon as possible. Set maximum NET energy requirements for all cars and offer strong incentives to both consumers and industry to abide by these standards.
Plant fruit bearing trees in the boulevards and more coniferous trees in urban areas to help regulate heat and cold. Urban agraculture is an opportunity to reduce the need to transport foods from it’s source to a store.
Do not use plastic bags at grocery stores. Too many times I have witnessed a person using one bag to carry a single item leaving a store. This behavior needs to change. Make it a habit to keep re-usable bags in your vehicle or bike for those unplanned stops.
Concrete Steps for Change!
Some ideas to commit British Columbia to being green.
Some simple tips for you kitchen
Don’t pour hot water down the sink in in cold weather. It makes very little sense to throw away the thermal energy. Let the hot water sit until it dissapates it’s thermal energy into the room and reaches room temperature.
When boiling water in a kettle, only boil exactly how much water you require. Boiling an entire kettle of water to make one cup of tea is wasting energy.
When putting water into a pot or kettle to boil, use cold water. If you use hot water instead, it causes energy to transfer into the pipes as thermal energy. That energy is more than the energy you save from a quicker boiling pot of water.
Compost if you garden. Creating your own compost is easy and saves you from buying it at a store. Best of all, it saves the energy required for the manufacturing and supply chain process.