1. Stopped by the farmer’s market at the UBC Farm yesterday to grab some fresh, local produce. Luckily for me it’s just down the road from my new apartment!

  2. Over the past week I’ve been in the process of moving to an apartment  closer to UBC for the coming academic year. My new place isn’t actually that far from the old one - it’s just under 5km up a slight hill. This gave me the perfect opportunity to conduct a little experiment and see how much stuff I could move without the help of a car or moving truck.

    I rented a homemade bike trailer from the AMS Bike Co-Op at UBC for a couple of days (at a modest cost of $5/day) and packed it with as many bags and smaller objects as I could (I’d estimate the trailer weighed about 80-90kg fully loaded). The two round trips I did involved less effort than I had feared, although I wasn’t able to manage riding any faster than a slow jog up the hill. I was pretty pleased at how simple a solution it was though - just hook up a trailer to your bike, throw whatever you want in it and off you go.

    Is it a feasible or even realistic way to move an entire apartment or small house? No. Not with a single rider and trailer at least. In my case these two trips only represented about 20% of my possessions, and I still ended up having to throw everything else (including all my furniture) into a moving truck. But for someone with no furniture to worry about who only wants to move their personal possessions a short distance, moving by bike is not only totally feasible; it’s probably also one of the quickest and cheapest ways of moving I can think of.

    In my case this solution turned out not to be suitable for my needs, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work out for others. I’d be more than willing to try again next time given a few volunteers and more trailers. I’d just have to dig out those IKEA manuals and disassemble all my furniture first.

  4. Dropped off 5 years worth of my family’s old / broken phones at the Nokia Care centre in Singapore last week. They’re a lot better off being recycled than sitting unloved at the bottom of desk drawers.

    According to Nokia, just 9% of phones are recycled worldwide. If you’ve got a few phones just sitting around, I’d encourage you to drop them off for recycling to turn them back into useful and valuable materials. :)

  5. vicenews:

    Indonesia is being deforested faster than any other country in the world, and it has everything to do with one product: palm oil.

    The ever-increasing demand for products containing palm oil is becoming a crippling problem with no simple or quick fixes. I was in Singapore in June last year when the air Pollutants Standard Index (PSI) reached its highest value ever recorded as a result of forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia. Burning is the cheapest way for farmers to clear rainforest for the planting of oil palm, but the peat soil present in the region means that these fires can burn uncontrolled for months. Aside from the obvious environmental consequences and habitat loss for orang-utans, the palm oil industry in Indonesia and Malaysia is rife with corruption and has a history of human rights abuse.

    A few weeks ago, my family decided to commit to not buying any foods containing palm oil for a month (we had to exclude soaps because it’s virtually impossible find any palm oil-free varieties). The penalty for buying a food product made from palm oil is S$5, which we collect and send off to a suitable charity at the end of the month. The goal is to continue our palm oil-free eating habits into the future - if we can all do it for a month, longer should be no problem.

    I’m not sure that boycotting palm oil entirely is a suitable long-term solution to the problem, however. Alternatives like soy, rapeseed, or sunflower oils have similar land, water, and pesticide demands - there’s no clear-cut substitute. The best solution is probably to reduce our consumption of vegetable oils altogether and ensure that products contain palm oil sourced from ‘sustainable’ sources (meaning that no virgin rainforest is destroyed for its cultivation). The issue isn’t with the plant itself but with the industry that exploits people, habitats, and land to cultivate it at the cheapest possible cost. If we can slowly change that, we can begin to fix the problem.

  6. I’ve always been a big fan of Nokia. They make solid, innovative products and have a proven track record of delivering on their ambitious sustainability goals - amongst others, Nokia is now the top collector of mobile phones for recycling in the world.

    Their colourful latest phablet, the Lumia 1520, is available in black, white, yellow, and red. In the next few weeks it’ll also be available in green. What’s so special about that? Well, the green shell is made from recycled DVDs, which Nokia has been collecting from consumers who don’t know what to do with their old films (due to the adoption of Blu-Ray and streaming services).

    I think that’s pretty cool not just because Nokia is actively recycling waste into useful products, but because it draws consumer attention to the growing issue of e-waste and the challenges we face in dealing with the problem. It remains to be seen how popular the green Lumia 1520 will be - I’d personally love the recycled covers to be available in the full range of colours for all phones.


  7. Reflection: One Year Later

    A year ago today, I set myself the lofty challenge of finding ways to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. To help me achieve this, I had also made myself a list of goals to set me off in the right direction. So what have I actually done in a year, and what lessons have I learnt for the next?

    I thought I’d start by taking my original list and crossing off what I’ve completed:

    Reduce use of:

    • Electricity (Placing electronics on sleep timers, installing CFL / LED lighting, etc.)
    • Non-rechargeable batteries (avoided whenever possible; next step is to eliminate entirely)
    • Leather products (e.g. wallets, shoes, etc.) (the only remaining leather products I own are a belt and a pair of formal shoes)
    • Synthetic clothing
    • Meat products (I now eat meat 3-4 times a month)
    • Fast food (eliminated entirely since last December)
    • Private transport

    Eliminate use of:

    • Fabric softener
    • Clothes dryers (with the exception of bed sheets, bi-weekly)
    • Paper towels
    • Disposable shopping bags (since last September)
    • Bottled water (since last September)
    • Unnecessary hygiene products (I have toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant, and cologne - that’s it)

    Replace consumables with eco-friendly / natural / organic substitutes:

    • 100% Recycled paper products (e.g. printer paper, toilet paper, etc.) (since last September)
    • Natural laundry detergent (since last September)
    • Natural / organic personal hygiene products (wherever possible) (with the exception of cologne)
    • Reusable bags and carriers (since last September)
    • Reusable water containers (since last September)
    • Natural household cleaning products (since last September)
    • Natural / organic bike & ski care products (skis waxed with BeaverWax, bike cleaning products from Green Oil UK)
    • Organic foods & beverages (wherever possible) (I buy organic food whenever I’m given the choice)

    Overall, I think I’ve done fairly well. I still have some work to do when it comes to using less private transport and synthetic clothing, reducing my electricity use, and eliminating use of paper towels entirely.

    In Vancouver, I’ve been able to reduce my use of public transport significantly since January (I don’t have a car). About two thirds of my trips are now made by bike or on foot. I also went from eating meat twice a day to a few times a month, which was the largest lifestyle change I’ve made so far.

    Over the next 12 months I want to continue making progress to reduce my environmental impact with both small and larger actions, which of course I’ll be talking about here whenever I can. If you have any ideas, tips, or criticisms, shoot me a PM. I’d love to hear any feedback!

  8. thisbigcity:

    Yep, in just one day - a day where all odd-numbered number plates weren’t allowed to drive in the city - air pollution improved from between 6% and 30%

    Have your own #citydata you’d like to share with the world?  Send it our way

    This is impressive. We need to be pushing for more pedestrian zones at the heart of cities whilst confining cars and trucks to specific main roads. Less pollution, less traffic, less noise, more space, and a potentially healthier population.

    (via thegreenurbanist)


  9. Micro Herb Garden

    Frustrated with the high prices and short shelf life of store-bought fresh herbs, I decided to purchase some mint, basil, and coriander plants - three tasty and easy-to-grow herbs that add flavour and texture to a huge number of recipes. They died.

    So I tried again. The second attempt went slightly better - that is, until the plants outgrew their tiny pots. After repotting the three of them into larger ones, the coriander decided it didn’t like its new home and died. Again.


    Here’s a picture before and after repotting. Basil is at the front, mint in the middle, and coriander at the back. Note my pathetic attempt at supporting the stems with chopsticks.

    So I bought some thyme (probably my favourite herb of all) to replace the deceased coriander, moved the plants to a south-facing window in the dining room, and constructed a makeshift shelf out of old cardboard. They’ve been happily growing ever since.


    My modest little herbs provide me with fresh, tasty leaves whenever I need them at zero cost and very little maintenance. But why am I even talking about them in the first place? Because herb gardens have the potential to save people money and reduce their dependence on purchased food:

    Read More

  10. thisbigcity:

    This is the highest diversion rate of any major city in North America. San Francisco has set the goal of achieving zero waste, or sending nothing to the landfill or incineration, by the year 2020.

    I spent a few days in San Francisco back in March and was pleasantly surprised at the scope and efficiency of the city’s recycling program. Dubbed Recology, the program is probably the most comprehensive large-scale waste management solutions I’ve read about in North America, and I think they set the standard for other major cities across the continent. They’re serious about their goals, and I really hope they manage to achieve them.