Friday, April 29, 2011

Bisphenol A (BPA)

Bisphenol A, what is that? 
It sounds complicated, and yet we encounter it every day, possibly ingesting it as well.  Bisphenol A or BPA is used to form the epoxy resin that lines our pre-packaged canned beans, tomato sauce, sodas, soups, bottled water and vegetables.  Basically if anything is canned you can guarantee that the inside of the metal can is lined with BPA. 

How do you identify if Bisphenol A is in your product?

Simply look for the symbol below.

Bisphenol Recycling Symbol

Why use BPA in the first place?

BPA`s are used a protective coating to ensure that the acidic contents do not rust away the metal shell of the can.  Our throwaway culture sets the precedent here, rather than using reusable containers, industry leaders are able to get away with creating waste with no responsibility for the mess left behind. 

What are the negative effects of BPA's?

BPA's can leach from the protective plastic lining into your foods.  BPA's have an effect on reproductive systems such as fertility, and has been identified as a hormone disruptor.  BPA's are also found to inhibit development for our kids and babies.  BPA's are also suspected to cause problems with our neurological systems, and obesity.

What has been done about BPA's?

One of the things that Canada has gotten right lately in our myriad of environmental action deficiencies, we were the first to declare BPA's as a toxic substance and ban it inside baby bottles.  The European Union followed suit and banned BPA's in baby bottles as well.  Japan's canning industry has already voluntarily phased out BPA's.  The US has recently voted to phase out BPA's for baby bottles, and reusable food/beverage containers by 2012.

How can we eliminate BPA`s from our society?

Recently Coca-Cola decided to shy away from eliminating BPA's from their products, even though 25% of their shareholders voted so.  As a temporary solution their are a few companies (such as Eden) that offer BPA free canning, simply just look for a label stating as such.  Most likely these products will be of the organic variety. On that note as a temporary solution businesses using BPA ridden products should phase out the resin/epoxy coating with a replacement.

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The fact that BPA's are present in our products underlines a problem with our current state of society, we are built for throwaway.  If we would replace the cans with reusable glass containers, or with a bulk system where you bring your own container, we would not have the need for the epoxy coating on the inside of the cans, thus we don't expose ourselves needlessly to a toxic substance.

Leading the Way Youth Summit 2011

In exactly one weeks time from today I will be in Edmonton participating in the Leading the Way Youth Summit 2011.  Myself and approximately 49 other delegates will be participating in a series of informative speeches, a LRT party, and a chance to submit ideas in front of a panel to correct transit problems.  I will be taking notes and will try and pass on any knowledge that I receive.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What is the best way to reduce your impact?

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Over at Treehugger they have this great graph which breaks down the various ways you can reduce your impact.  The graph also provides a value of the benefit for each action.  If you were to change your diet by eating less meat, and choose to telecommute instead of driving to an office, you generate double the benefit than the majority of courses of action.  If you have no choice but to drive due to your work location, you can still generate a reduction of impact if you drive properly.  If you accelerate slowly, brake infrequently and follow speed limits you can dramatically improve your fuel efficiency.  You generate a respectable savings just by maintaining your vehicle. 

I just wanted to share this graph because it provides a direct comparison between various methods,.  The biggest thing to take away is that it shows just how much of an impact our eating and commuting habits have. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Farmers Market, Twice the Benefits

When you choose to support your local farmers by buying your produce, meat, dairy, snacks, and honey from the farmers market you are promoting sustainable practices in two main ways.  When the spuds, carrots, cucumbers, peas, tomatoes are ready for picking, the farmer will simply pick them off into a basket.  No stickers are needed to identify where they came from, cucumbers will not be shrink-wrapped, herbs will not be encased in a plastic prison.  When you shop at your local farmers market you are promoting the use of fewer or no packaging, you can simply place the produce into your tote bag and take off. 

Since the products at your local farmers market are coming from within 150 km (a two hour round trip drive), this means that your food will have a minimal carbon foot print of 0.03 tonnes of CO2 and uses 25 L of fuel.  The food at your local supermarket most likely came from far away lands such as California.  The carbon footprint of your food coming from California 2,833 km away is 1.96 tonnes of CO2 and 730 L of fuel.  This represents a 6400% increase in CO2 emissions  The numbers speak for themselves, our current global food sources are having a enormous impact.  When you shop locally, you decrease CO2 emissions, pollutants, wear and tear on the roads.  Local farmers have higher job security and with the surplus money they generate they spend the money on businesses that you may own or work at. 

Why would you want to give someone that doesn't live in your area money?  They don't live here, so why would they care about making it the best that it can be, they don't have to deal with the majority of the side effects when they do not have local interests.

Another benefit to having local farms is that if you ever feel to need to check for sustainable and humane farming practices, well guess what it is only 150 km.  You could make a trip out to the farm, and check whether they are treating their animals humanely, or whether they are using an obscene amount of pesticides.  If you are getting your food from California 2,800 km away it is difficult to get to know the farmers that are growing your food. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How Recycling Works

The above infographic was in the metronews today.  It is a simple breakdown of some the processes to recycle four materials; aluminum, plastic, glass, and paper.  It also has some of the shocking stats about recycling in Europe and the USA.  This infographic shows that it is cheaper to use recycled materials, and that we are not recycling enough.  Of course the best solution in the first place is not to create the waste in the first place.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why is the Car so Inefficient?

In this excerpt I would like to look at what causes the personal automobile to be so inefficient. 
The majority of automobiles on the road are your typical sedan with two seats in the front, three in the back and a trunk.  If you were to look at the cars on the nearest road, you would notice that the majority of vehicles are only transporting 1 person.  The car engine in these cars are designed to be able to move 5 people and belongings in the trunk, this means that the engine would have had to been built larger and with more capacity than if the car was designed only to carry one person and their belongings.  The personal automobile is designed to meet every single possible scenario that one may find themselves in; do I need to take 1, 2, 3, 4, friends/siblings,children,pets along with me; do I need to bring my golf clubs, duffel bag, presentation material; do I need to pick up furniture.  Rather than design cars for the bare minimum for the most common scenario, cars are designed to be able to do everything, and since you will only ever need to move a chair once a year, or pick up a friend once a year, this leads this over design to be a big waste of fuel.  If someone were to truly need a vehicle, they should be able to buy a smart car sized vehicle, and rent an appropriate sized car when needed.  If we are even to begin considering cars in a sustainable world, they need to be built as small and light as possible.

Often cars will be designed with grossly excessive amounts of horsepower than will ever be necessary for a typical commute, all because it is "sexy" or "cool".  The table below compares some of the typical vehicles and their respective fuel economy, carbon footprint and engine size.  As you can see that when you decrease the size of the vehicle along with the size of the engine, your impact on the environment dramatically improves.  When you design a vehicle to transport just a human being as opposed to the blatant excess of a Hummer, you reduce your impact by a factor of 10 and increase your fuel economy by a factor of 16.  Compared to a typical car, your impact is reduced by an factor of 5 and increase you fuel economy by a factor 8.

Traffic Jam
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There is the big issue of traffic lights, the dominant form of traffic control at intersections.  If you were to watch a busy intersection you would observe that whenever a certain direction changes red, that 10-30 vehicles will line up.  You will also notice that not one single vehicle will take the fraction of the second that it takes to turn your vehicle off.  It takes 10 seconds of idling to match the fuel spent starting the engine.  Assuming that idling a car for one hour uses 3.78 L of fuel, this works out to be 1.05 mL/s. If you take 10 cars simply sitting at a light for one minute would waste 630mL of fuel, 1260mL for 20, and 1890mL for 30, never mind 100 or 200 vehicles.  I know from my days driving a vehicle that you would be very lucky not to only catch one light for your own trip, in fact you will several lights on your commute, as will the 500,000 other commuters in your city.  This problem is only compounded due to the fact that their is an estimated 600,000,000 vehicles on the planet.  There is a potential for 30,000,000 L of wasted fuel every day with that many vehicles on the planet, all simply due to the fact that people are too lazy to turn off their cars at a light.  The thing is that as always a solution exists, hybrid cars for nearly a decade have been outfitted with a switch that automatically shuts the engine down during idling.  Why has this not been implemented world wide?  Everyday $44,226,000 is being burnt on wasted fuel.  If cars want a place in a sustainable world, legislation needs to be put into place to make this mandatory for every vehicle.

There are a huge swath of energy saving features that should be implemented in every vehicle that could squeeze every the last drop out of every tank.  We could install regenerative brakes and flywheels to capture the energy lost while braking.  We could install motors directly at each wheel, with no loss of power through the transmission which can account for 5% energy losses, but we would rather focus on the color of the car, the material of the seats, and how awesome the stereo system is. 

Another problem with automobiles is a result of the very fuel that they run on, gasoline.  An internal combustion engine only has an efficiency of 15%.  This means that 15% of the energy from the fuel is only used to move your vehicle.  What about the other 85%, approximately 60% of the energy going into your engine is being wasted as heat, other losses are due to friction and inertia.  Cars are wasting 60% of the energy from the fuel in the form of heat, this is heat that is doing nothing, it is not heating steam to turn a generator, this is heat that is simply being released to the environment.  An electric car does not produce as much heat, and therefore can circumvent complicated cooling systems, cooling chemicals, radiators, fans, and wiring. Electric can forgo with many of the harmful chemicals and pollutants that keep a gasoline car running.  As a result, electric cars have less parts to maintain, and fewer fluids to change resulting in lower maintenance costs.  If cars are to have a place in a sustainable world, legislation needs to be in place to ban the prehistoric and inefficient internal combustion engine. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

OPOD (One Piece One Day)

History has shown the negative effects of not properly managing your waste.  Landscapes were altered, rivers narrowed, and hills created due to ancient civilization.  Our ancient ancestors suffered the vicious outbreaks of the likes of the black plague.  Certain members of our society today still pollute our cities with their trash.  In today's society the developed countries have distanced themselves from their trash, they will complain about the grime on the street yet they drive or walk on by.  The irony is that trash may eventually end up being blown into your backyard. 

As always the best strategy for waste management is to avoid making trash when possible.

A while ago I challenged myself to pick up one piece of trash every day, and I have so far met that challenge.  With such a low goal I have been easily beating the one piece mark. I do not go out of my way to pick up garbage, I only pick up what is in my direct path.  I am just like anyone else I have a job that I have to commute to and from.  I head home after a tiring day of work and lead a semi busy life.  I only pick up a piece of trash when I, if I am in a rush I do not bother and leave it for my slower commute home.  I always notice trash everywhere and want to pick it all up, but I know that it will always be there later so give myself a break. 

I also have limited myself to only picking up a piece of garbage if I know there will be a trash can within 2 minutes of walking, if I am in an unfamiliar place I will only pick up a piece of trash if their is an immediate trash can.  Based on this I have noticed that the number of trash cans in a cities downtown is more than adequate, with a trash can on every corner.  However once you are outside of the core the number of trash cans could be doubled,  quite often I will find that you may have to walk 5 minutes before you find a receptacle.  Provide a trash can and people will be more likely to use it. 

Undertaking this challenge I also observed that if you are constantly commuting in an automobile you do not have the opportunity to get intimate with your environment.  When you are behind the wheel you do have the chance to clean your city as you commute, the only opportunities you have exist from you front door to the car, and from your car to your office doors or through the parking lot.  If you want to participate I still encourage you to do so in these limited situations, or when you take a run, jog, or bike ride.

The Breakdown

One of the main culprits littering our fine sidewalks happen to be from the fast food industry, mainly the disposable cups.  Tim Hortons and Starbucks must be real proud with the free advertising that they generate with the disposable cups littered about, especially since they make their cups so vivid with the colours.  I think it is time for the fast food industry to start acting, enough pussy-footing with the passive agenda of encouraging people to bring their own cups, stop giving out disposable packaging.    I am considering undertaking a campaign of collecting all of the trash in one day for one fast food chain and bringing it to closest outlet to show them the damage they contribute to.

The second major culprit happens to come from the tobacco industry.  However it is not just the cigarette butts, as one would expect.  Every single component involved with smoking ends up on our streets,  the cigarette pack wrappers, the cigarette pack containers, the cigarette butts, the plastic mouth pieces, the lighters and matches.  Smoking is an industry of littering, as much as I despise smokers our cities really need to increase the number of receptacles available for smokers to dispose of their waste.  I would like to see severe fines for cigarette littering after the fact, as there is no excuse since their would be a receptacle on every block.

Other major contributors are grocery bags, newspapers/flyers.  Another surprising common trash I ran into was hard plastic off of vehicles,  for some reason I did not think that would be a major trash item.

Many people have the belief that the city employs people to clean up our cities, and choose to wait until they do so.  Its unfortunate that the city hires workers to do this job, because it sets that sort of thinking.  We all live in the same city, why not have some pride and make it the best it can be.  I was in downtown Edmonton recently this past weekend and had to walk towards the bus stop and managed to pick up the 15 pieces of garbage littering the 10 meters to the stop.  It is so easy to do and yet it has so a big impact, those 10 meters of sidewalk were now clear of its trash.  I have also noticed that with transit patrons at an LRT station for example, where there can be 100 people waiting for five minutes for the next train to arrive.  They all stand around waiting for the next train, and yet they could easily take two seconds to pick up one piece of trash.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Climate Change Skepticism

In my endeavours to get some large scale action executed to reverse climate change, I have run into a few skeptics.  Climate scientists are ridiculed, and are accused of tweaking numbers in order to keep their job.  Surprisingly these claims do not come from an uneducated slob, but rather educated individuals such as those with Engineering degrees.  

Thanks to media outlets like Fox News and certain corporate industries, they public has the belief that there is no consensus between climate scientists , when in fact 97% of all climate scientists agree that climate change is happening.  For individuals to claim that climate scientists are tweaking numbers in order to get research money and keep their jobs is just preposterous.  In fact the public has such a deep belief that this is the case a number of investigations have taken place, and guess what the scientists were found innocent.  Scientists are governed by a body of scientists to ensure that they are completing their work ethically, and in such a way to prevent bringing harm to the general public.  So it is quite baffling for an engineer who is also governed by a board, to claim that the entire climate body would risk their reputation and integrity in order to keep their job. 

I know that I am certainly not a climate scientist, and I am sure that the majority of society is not as well.  Climate science is a complicated matter that requires extensive education and specialization.  It is the job of climate scientists to study the climate, and present their findings to society, it is what they are paid to do.  Doctors specialize in improving human health, they have taken extensive education, so when a doctor recommends a certain remedy to an ailment we generally accept the diagnosis. We accept that physicists know what they are doing when they study super conductors, but not climate scientists because it is an inconvenience.  Why is it allowed for someone that is not a climate scientist to discard their findings if they do not agree with the findings? 

Climate change is a significant finding, a problem that is caused by our behaviors.  Climate change shows that the frequency of destructive droughts, flooding, mud slides and abnormal weather patterns such as hurricanes, tornadoes, thunder storms will increase.  Our present world is increasingly global, our mangos come from India, our tomatoes and peppers from south America, so when a natural disaster strikes these regions, wiping out the majority of a crop the entire world suffers from the lack of food which drives up costs.  Birds migratory patterns are being disrupted, and if birds do not migrate back north for the summer insects with have one less predator and their numbers will dramatically increase.  Pine beetles are proliferating due to warmer winters, and are wreaking havoc to forests.  The bees which we rely on to pollinate our food are being wiped out due to our over use of pesticides.  Our oceans are warming up, which is allowing king crabs to invade Arctic waters, whose current inhabitants are not used to predators.  Jelly fish have been taking over our oceans disrupting fishing, and entire species of fish are being wiped out due to overfishing.  The whole world is connected and if you upset the balance in any way the consequences are never negligible. 

Too often I find in my discussions that an individual will discredit climate change based on their immediate environments.  This is very dangerous way to look at the problem since it is a global problem, some areas are going to be hit harder than others, at different times and in different ways. 

I often run into the personal attacks of climate scientists behaviors, such as their use of an airplane to get to a conference in Copenhagen.  This is also sets a dangerous precedent that we can disregard the entire argument of climate scientists simply because of one flaw they may have as a human being.

Often you will hear the argument that enforcing climate change measures will cost jobs in the dirty industries.  Some jobs will be lost from the dirty industries, but an immense quantity of jobs will also be created.  As homes, buildings, businesses are all made efficient you will have to hire plumbers to do piping, mechanics to tweak turbines, electricians, welders, labourers and managers to coordinator them.  You will also have to hire engineers to design geothermal systems, electrical systems, and turbines. 

It is very clear that the automobile and energy industries have immense power and money, and it is very human to want to maintain that status. 

In order to reverse climate change it is going to require drastic changes from society, and no this does not mean that we will all be living in caves.  This means that we will be increasing the efficiencies of our current systems.  Instead of using natural gas to heat every home, we would instead use sustainable methods such as trombe walls, geothermal heating, solar heating.  We will have to better conserve our water which is vital to our survival.  We will have to eliminate wasteful one time uses of water, and collect the water from our showers and taps for reuse in our toilets.  We have to eliminate waste even before it is produced from going to the landfill and implement better ways of reuse to drastically reduce the need for extraction of new resources.  We are going to have to eliminate our reliance on extraction based fuels, replaced with renewable solar, tidal, and wind energy sources.  We need to increase our wild life conservation zones and enforcement.We will have to make some sacrifices, mainly in the department of our over consumption such as taking shorter showers and not driving 5 blocks in a pick-up to get your groceries. 

This also requires the help of the government to set laws so that this can be enforced.  Our governments are a crucial ally in reversing global warming as they have the tax base which can be used to provide families with the capital to renovate their homes and reduce their impacts.  So far our governments have not been acting against global warming nearly as much as they should.  It is still legal for retailers to sell high flow toilets, and Canada still has a asbestos mine for starters.  We still provide subsidies for the oil industry which should be transferred over to renewable energy developments.

Everyone know what needs to be done, however it seems that everyone is holding off since the vast majority is not acting.  We as individuals in our society are constantly comparing our actions to those around us.  So if nobody else is acting to reduce their impact, we as an individual do not feel inclined to act differently.  The majority of society feels "normal" if they mimic the actions of their fellow human beings.  That being said you don't have to wait for your peers to start acting, this is your future, your environment, your air, your water, wouldn't you want the best for it?

Change is difficult, however we can all make the best of it by working together.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Canadians are not Doing Enough

According to this, the Conservative Canadian government has not been doing enough to curb global warming.  Many, many people think that since they recycle that is enough on their part.  We have to take a serious look at where our energy is coming from, how we commute to work,  how much and what we eat and use.  We are closing onto the threshold, where once we cross it our actions will be irreversible. We have to start acting now, as in this year and it needs to be drastic. 

Luckily Canadians have an election coming up in a month on May 2, 2011.  We have a chance to elect the NDP or Green Party into power, both of which are ready to take the drastic action that is necessary to solve climate change.  Cities need more funding for public transit, we need to replace our congested highways with high speed rail, we need to build more efficient buildings and homes.  These are all things that the Green Party and NDP are ready to do, both of these parties will act on what is right rather than what makes them the most popular.  This would include cutting the $1 Billion subsidies awarded annually to the oil industry.  This would include investing heavily in renewable sources of energy such as wind or solar and shutting down coal power plants.  This would include shutting down the asbestos mines in Quebec.  This would include protecting vital forests, mountains and rivers so that people can live.  This would include cutting income taxes and instead taxing the corporations that decide to pollute our environment.  These parties are ready to act, are you?

The platform and information for both parties can be found here Green Party and here NDP.

A long time ago in junior school days we were undertaking a discussion about climate change.  We have two scenarios, on the one side we can choose to ignore the problem, do nothing and hope for the best.  On the other side we can choose to take the necessary steps to reverse climate change.  With the first option if you are wrong the consequences are huge, however if we take the second route and we are wrong what is the worst that can happen?  We spend money which creates jobs to make our energy, transportation, and living systems more efficient.  If we choose to take action it will not go to waste if it does not happen,  we will have cleaned up our skies, our water, and we would have ensured that it stays that way for future generations as laws are put in place.  I would gladly say that I was wrong if proven so, I don't think that the guy still driving his hummer can say the same thing when he is proven wrong.

The Green Party Needs Your Help

The green party is currently not being allowed to speak at a debate.  This is very undemocratic and in my opinion is no different than how Mubarak treated the Egyptians.  The Green Party has the right to present their views to Canada. 

If you believe that the Green Party should be present in the debate, show your support for the Green Party by entering the petition in the link below.

Spread the message, and let democracy have its say!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Late Night Transit

I am always taken aback that large municipalities like Edmonton and Calgary do not have late night transit, not even one route.  Apparently our cities shut down after 1 am.  I recently attended a meeting for a transit summit, in which I was presented with the long term strategy for transit in Calgary.  I noticed something that was lacking from the plan, late night transit was not mentioned once.  I followed up with the transit employee afterwards to find the reason and I was informed that it was due to the lack of demand.
Our cities do not suddenly fall asleep once the lights are out.  Nurses and doctors are busy keeping fellow citizens alive and healthy in emergency rooms and medicenters.  There is also the large night-life industry of bars, pubs and restaurants that stay open to keep us entertained.  Entertainment establishments tend to all close at the same time around 3am, creating a mad rush to get a large mass of people home.  The people that are busy serving drinks in those establishments have to get to work somehow too.  There are countless employees working night shifts or some overtime.  All of these people have one less option to get around after 1 am rolls on by.  Yet our transit systems want to tell us that there is no demand for night time service, not even one route on one weekend night?  Those that got to their destination by transit have to rely on expensive cabs, calling a friend for a ride.  Drinking and driving is problem that could be curtailed, if people know that they can get home by transit they may ditch the car and potentially save someones life.
I want to take the time to show what a late night service should look like.  Obviously the ridership would not warrant the higher 15 minute frequencies you would see during peak service during the day.  So to begin with the service would run at 30 minute to 1 hour frequencies.  The main reason for night time service is to provide a sustainable, inexpensive way to get around the city at night time.  To make a successful late night transit service provide direct routes between transit stations.  The service should be set up in such a way that a person can at least get somewhat more east-west or north-south.  The service will never be perfect but any level of service will be exponentially better than none at all.  It is very similar to the saying "Give a dollar to the richest man in the world, and it doesn't change his overall sum.  However give a dollar to the poorest man on earth, and it has an exponential impact."
The above image shows you a rough idea of what a basic late night service in Edmonton could look like.  Late night transit would run at hour frequencies and would run to all corners the city.  Based on the above map I am going to analyze three scenarios:

  1. Bare Minimum Service - 4 branches - green, yellow, purple, and orange
  2. City Wide Service - 7 branches - green, yellow, purple, orange, red, blue, and black
  3. Comprehensive Service - 7 branches & blue connectors
For all three scenarios we will assume that the buses are diesel with an average mileage of 39 L/100km.  We will also assume that the price of diesel fuel is $1.07/L.  The analysis will cover the five hours between 1 am and 6 am.  We will assume that the bus drivers base pay is $25/hr and that they are being paid double time for these hours at $50/hr, and $250 for the entire shift.  You will need to provide some security for your employees, so lets assume that a peace officer is paid $30/hr standard and $60/hr double time, or $300 for the whole night.  Since ETS only employs 50 peace officers for regular service, lets assume that one officer per bus is employed.  Lets also assume that 2 dispatchers are required at $60/hr for a total of $600 for the whole night.  Note that this analysis does not account for costs such as maintenance, or the distance from the garage to the route.

The first scenario consists of a combined round trip total of 66 km, resulting in 26 L of spent fuel every hour.  The fuel for this scenario would cost $28 every hour.  Assuming that you would only need two drivers one for the orange-purple arms and one for the green-yellow arms.  With a driver cost of $500, security costs of $600, dispatching costs of $600 and fuel cost of $136, for a grand total of $1836. In order to provide the bare minimum service it would only cost $2000 grand every night, and would allow its citizens a rudimentary way to travel east-west or north-south.  As rudimentary as this service is, it still manages to reach major destinations such as WEM, downtown, and Whyte Ave.

The second scenario consists of a combined round trip total of 138 km, resulting in 53 L of spent fuel every hour.  The fuel for this scenario would cost $57 every hour.  Assuming that you would only need four drivers one for the orange-purple arms, the green-yellow arms, black-blue arms, and the red arm.  With a driver cost of $1000, security costs of $1200, dispatching costs of $600 and fuel cost of $288, for a grand total of $3088. For $3500 the city would be able to provide service to and from the core to all corners of the city, hitting all major destinations such as WEM, Jasper and Whyte Ave.

The third scenario consists of a combined round trip total of 209 km, resulting in 81 L of spent fuel every hour.  The fuel for this scenario would cost $87 every hour.  Assuming that you would only need nine drivers one for the orange-purple arms, the green-yellow arms, black-blue arms, the red arm, and the connection arms.  With a driver cost of $2250, security costs of $2700, dispatching costs of $600 and fuel cost of $438, for a grand total of $5988. For $6000 the city would be able to provide service to and from the core to all corners of the city, hitting all major destinations such as WEM, Jasper and Whyte Ave.  Not only that but citizens would be able to cross travel between the routes outside of the core.

If you were to implement each scenario for the weekends (Friday-Saturday) over a year it would cost $190,944, $321,152, and $622,752 annually.  The City of Edmonton has an net operating cost of $132, 000, 000.  Scenario 3 would only represent 0.5% of that cost, surely we can find some money to provide service where is severely is lacking.  Just as a side note according to the City of Edmonton the above budget is for 2 million service hours which works out to be $63/hr.  My numbers are coming in at $180-$150/hr which indicates that my numbers are at least double the rate the city estimates.  Using the city estimates the costs would come down to $66,184, $132,368, and $297,829.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Party Pooper

It is a common belief that if you want to go green you have to forgo all forms of fun.  You have exile yourself from the rest of society and live like a cave man.  This could not be farther from the truth, while this may be suitable for some people, the vast majority of the green culture realizes this and is not expecting that people live like this.  While it is true that we do need to rid ourselves of the over indulgences, this does not mean that you cannot have fun.  Humans are social beings, when we are given a chance to have fun we can clear our heads, raise our spirits and it can often lead to the formation of great ideas or innovation.

There are many things that can be done to make a party have less of an impact, however the best ways involve avoiding the creation of needless waste in the first place.  If you can put in place procedures and practices in order to reduce waste, it will not only serve to help reduce your impact but it will also reduce your work load later.

If your patron volumes warrant it, try to use kegs as opposed to bottles to serve your alcohol.  While there is a large market for recycling bottles, that is not to say there is not an impact due to transportation, cleansing.  Bulk uses less packaging, and it will most likely be guaranteed to be less expensive.  Yes, I know what you are thinking, you will need something to drink your hoppy beverage with.  In my recent experiment to pick up one piece of garbage a day, I have noticed that the majority of garbage littering our streets is in the form of disposable fast food packaging.  The majority of the waste going to our land fills is a result of our throw away culture. 

Most of the parties that I have frequented tend to handle this by using the infamous plastic red disposable glasses,  among paper, plastic, Styrofoam plates/cups/utensils.  If you are not worried about your patrons breaking expensive glass, use your existing plates, cups, and utensils, this way you can ensure that no waste will be sent to the landfill.  If you do not want to risk your own dishes, find some reusable plastic plates and cups, but avoid plastic utensils unless they are thick as these have a tendency to break.  This way you can wash and reuse the dishes the same way you can with your own dishes.  The dishwasher uses less water than washing by hand, so when the party is over just simply pop the dishes into dishwasher and you are done.  Chances are you will throw more than one party so you can keep these tucked away until the late nights arise again.  If your party is too big to justify buying a large quantity of dishes, look up local businesses that rent out reusable plastic dishes and undertake the responsibility of the washing.  Please, please avoid using throw away dishes, chances are you knew about your party in advance, so put a little extra thought into your waste.  If you absolutely have no choice but to go with one-time use dishes, seek out the dishes that are made out of recycled materials.

Decoration Constructed out of Recycled Office Paper
Decorations are also another large aspect of any successful party, as we like to stimulate the senses and create a memorable experience.  Most often we will run off to the dollar store or local party store to buy ribbons, poster supplies, that will most likely be used only once before we throw them out.  There are two basic ways to reduce your decoration impact; don't buy new and utilize reusable decoration elements.  Parties are great places to get creative, instead of copping out and buying decorations new take a look around your household and see how you can reinvent an everyday household item as a decoration.  You may have to tailor your party theme to what is available, however you are not limited to what is just in your home, take a look around your city and the web and I am positive you will be able to find objects ready to be reused for your hip party.  Check out your local garage sales, ask local companies for any unwanted materials.  You could use beach balls in place of balloons, used office paper to create paper mache to your whims of your imagination, the possibilities are unlimited.  If you cannot think of a way to create recycled decorations, make a quick search on the Internet, people have been having parties since the dawn of time and you will undoubtedly find ideas that you can borrow.

The second way to reduce your decoration impact is to utilize decoration schemes that use less physical materials.  Try to employ your environment and lighting to create the desired effect as opposed to physical streamers or balloons.  You can throw a red sheet over a lamp and drastically change the mood and feel.

Most often we have to let the world know about our party.  Instead of employing an army of ink and paper, take your invitation to the internet where the earths billion inhabitants congregate. Paper and ink require large amounts of resources and energy to produce, and recycle, whereas the internet does not take a physical form.

It is very likely that a you will plan or attend a costume oriented party.  The impact of your costumes can be minimized in a similar fashion to your decorations.  Do not buy one of the pre-packaged costumes from your local party store and instead take a look around your household.  There is a gold mine of items that could be repurposed into the time of your life, old utensils can become antennas, cardboard into a shield.  If you need one critical component in order to complete your ensemble, take a look at your local value village, garage sales, and used clothing outlets.  Again if you are coming up short on ideas jump onto the web and take a look at what others have done.

Some other ways to green your party:
  • Make sure you have recycling bins/bags in place to collect and recycle any left over bottles, plastic, paper waste.
  • Avoid ordering food in from fast food outlets, if you have no choice bring a reusable container for the food to cut down on the needless disposable waste.