Tag Archives: sustainable living

What I learned from six months of GMO research: None of it matters

Wow, this article streams about 20 of my gravest passions – grave in the sense of their depressing content – but mostly it’s an intriguing look at society’s relationship with technology. Thank you for this, Nathanael Johnson.


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Grist

About a third of the way through this series on GMOs, after a particularly angry conflagration broke out on Twitter, I asked my wife, Beth, if I could tell her what had happened. I was hoping to exorcise those digital voices from my head. Someone had probably accused me of crimes against humanity, shoddy journalism, and stealing teddy bears from children — I forget the details, thank goodness. But I remember Beth’s response.

“No offense,” she said, “but who cares?”

It’s a little awkward to admit this, after devoting so much time to this project, but I think Beth was right. The most astonishing thing about the vicious public brawl over GMOs is that the stakes are so low.

I know that to those embroiled in the controversy this will seem preposterous. Let me try to explain.

Let’s start off with a thought experiment: Imagine two alternate futures, one in…

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Houzz on Steps to Go Green

Call it a resolution, call it a 10-step program, call it whatever you want, but everything on here is not only doable (easily), but more elegant and interesting. These are not options, they are the normal:


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The kitchen’s a mess

My Messy Kitchen

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Ask Umbra: Can I rest easy eating organic beef?

“the very best choice, environmentally speaking, is to cut way back on your beef… raising cattle is still highly resource intensive”


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Grist

Send your question to Umbra!

Q.I always buy organically raised beef, when I do buy beef. I read that ground beef you get is a mixture of beef from different animals. How do I know the beef I am getting is, in fact, organically grown? Could it be mixed with other feedlot beef? Also, when it comes to processing the animal, how are the organically raised cows treated? Any better or different than if they were just regular cows?

Suzy P.
Denver, CO

A. Dearest Suzy,

When I got your letter, I imagined you reading it aloud in with a suave accent: “I don’t always eat beef. But when I do, I prefer organic.” And well that you do: There are important differences between the lives — if not the deaths — of organically raised cattle and their conventional, feedlot-bound siblings.

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Open letter to helicopter parents

Dear Helicopter Parents,

I am sympathetic to your worries and can understand your intentions, but I would appreciate it if you could reign in your hovering urges when it comes to my kids.

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Kids leading the way along the WillametYou see, I am not one to hover; mine are the children who wave goodbye to me without looking back.

They know I would never send them off into a world they are not prepared for.

They know that things might go differently than they might expect, but they can adjust and move on.

They have been listening to the new skills I have taught them at each step of their development.

But it is what I know that I would like to discuss with you.

I know when it is time to let them choose who attends their birthday parties.

I know when my kids have learned what range of foods they should put in their own lunches.

I know when it is time to let my 11-year-old navigate a controlled crosswalk across a busy street.

I know when my 11-year-old can ride with his 8-year-old sister to your house for a play up the notorious hills of North Vancouver.

I know when they are ready to be at home alone for 15 minutes, a half an hour, and eventually for an evening.

Isaac star jump

So, please don’t

Pout if your kid was not invited this year,  he or she may make the cut next year, who knows, kids are fickle.

Feed my children more than they thought to pack.

Insist on picking him up because you wouldn’t let your child cross a busy street alone.

Offer to drive them home.

Wonder what kind of parent I am to leave her children alone.

Because, I’m the kind of parent who expects that her kids

Never need to be reminded to be polite.

Never expect other houses to be just like home.

Never need me to hold their hands while they are out.

Never question why we choose to leave the car at home whenever possible.

Always know that I am just a phone call away should they need me.

They are confident, flexible, individually minded, and proud they can do so much on their own.

They make mistakes, they get hurt, and they struggle with their feelings.

They fly their own helicopters.

Sincerely,

A woman trying to teach her children independence and courage


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Passion over pragmatics

Sometimes I re-watch this when I can’t quite remember the direction I was going:

Swiggtalk chats with Betsy Agar about following your passions, advice on choosing to do what you love, and the many career options available to teen girls. More at http://www.swiggtalk.com


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18. Bus part-ay!

(Not to be confused with a “Party Bus”!)

Have a kid’s birthday coming up?

Already worrying about how to entertain them for the hours that feel like days?

Take public transit!

My daughter wanted to go skating at an outdoor rink for her sleepover birthday festivities, but the conundrum is always how to get the kids there. Even if we did own two cars, we wouldn’t have enough seats.

No problem. We walked to the end of our street and filed onto the 232.

Kneeling on the bus

Some of the kids had never been on a bus!

To kids, the bus is liberating and daring. No seatbelts. Sometimes you have to stand. You can sit by yourself or curl up next to mom.

They chatted and giggled and sat on their knees to look out. They wondered when the bus would come, how to pay the fare, and how to get off. They wanted to pull the string for our stop and they figured out how to open the back door.

Our bus trip became part of the festivities.

Taking the bus in Vancouver is convenient because it is well-connected, and it is getting easier all of the time. This year, Translink is moving toward a refillable fare card. The “Compass Card” will be a much more convenient means of paying for and validating fares, and the system automatically determines the fare rate based on where you “tap in” and “tap out.” No more guessing which fare applies and what time of day and for how many zones!

In the meanwhile, I keep passes on hand so we can hop on the bus anytime to explore our city! (Without having to hunt for change!)

HOT TIP!  Get a transfer when you board the bus. Most transit systems validate fares for 90 minutes. You might be able to get there and back on a single ticket!


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I thought these were obvious

but maybe I’ve been doing them for too long. I trust Houzz though, they be smart! So enjoy these clever tips:


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On funding public transportation

It is my privilege to write for Carbon Talks, a Simon Fraser University initiative that engages public, private, corporate, governmental, institutional, not-for-profit, any individual/group wanting to move sustainable development forward.

I have written a blog comparing Toronto and Vancouver, and the universal struggles of developing and implementing regional transit that is so efficient and convenient people won’t want to bother driving to work!

The Big Move: the cost-benefits of regionalizing transit

in preparation for Carbon Talks’ upcoming public dialogue:

A mayor’s vision of how to fund regional public transportation

Friday March 1st, 12:30-1:30 PST

Carbon Talks with Mayor Richard Walton, Chair of TransLink’s Mayor’s Council
SFU Harbour Centre Room 1700, 515 West Hastings St or by webcast

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Global FOODprint – Very Punny!

A few months ago I wrote a post about Canada’s appalling rate of wasting food, as part of my All right already, stop asking! series about quirky little habits I’ve picked up over the years that just might save the world. While the primary focus of the article is on the appalling amount of food entering Canada’s waste stream, food waste has other very significant social implications.

There is the obvious one that most of us were raised on: Eat your dinner! Don’t you know their are children starving in [Africa]! [Insert any country on any continent here – yes, even Canada]

But setting the “niggling” little issue of starving populations aside (PLEASE tell me those air quotes convey my sarcasm!), waste is not only an end-of-life issue, but also a life-cycle issue throughout the food production and distribution system, or as the UNEP explains it:

“The global food system has profound implications for the environment, and producing more food than is consumed only exacerbates the pressures”

Drawing on Ecological Footprinting, the enlightening and innovative technique to estimate our Earth’s resource limitations, the UNEP recently launched a new campaign to target our global FoodPrint. See what they did there? Very punny. Punny but also fitting since the concept is really just a particular case of ecological footprinting.

Wasted food contributes to land degradation, water and energy waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and depleted marine stocks without ever nourishing the owners of those hungry bellies in [Africa] who your mother told you about.

To participate in the campaign, check out the UNEP’s great planning strategies, food storage tips, and even dietary tricks that reduce not only your waste, but also your waist (To obvious? Overused?), and even save you money.

Food for thought: Has it ever occurred to you to ask restaurants for smaller portions?


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