Friday, 22 June 2012

Troc-Exchange: A Vancouver Bartering System To Reduce Waste

Inspired by an exchange in Europe, Christine and Yvan Saché developed, a values-driven Craigslist-style website in Vancouver that returns revenue to charities that create environmental changes. The program targets two significant areas of impact: to reduce excess waste and support environmental improvement.

Collaborative consumption is a worldwide trend that TIME Magazine has named as one of the 10 Ideas That Will Change The World. Programs such as Zip Car are popping up all over the world as individuals support this idea. Sharing and trading goods are simple ways to get rid of things you no longer use and acquire things you want without having to add to the products on the planet. Through this type of exchange we can reduce waste and protect our environment.

Bartering is the core of the Troc-Exchange concept. The website's platform is designed to encourage the exchange of goods and services but also provides alternative options to donate or purchase. Individuals can post ads for free and participate in clothing swaps to allow people to see a variety of items at once and make exchanges in person.

Their largest clothing swap was on April 21st at the Projecting Change Film Festival where 100% of the proceeds went to Surfrider Vancouver to help beach clean up on Earth Day. We encourage you to contact them for more information on upcoming swaps and let them know your level of interest so these events can grow.

In addition to fighting waste, the vision of is to raise funds for associations and foundations of volunteers that are working for the well-being of the planet. The company is funded by sponsors and 50% of their revenue goes to environmental organizations which include groups in Vancouver and worldwide. Their Vancouver chapter is also 100% volunteer run.

The team at Troc-Exchange believes when you participate in this system your are defending the environment for today and for our children tomorrow.

Swap Day with Troc-Exchange

Thursday, 14 June 2012

V-Poles: The Future of Vancouver

Vancouver's city planners are taking a page from the imagination of one of the city's most celebrated writers. Douglas Coupland's V-Poles are conceptual multipurpose poles of 12 feet or higher, that are equipped to bolster cellular and wi-fi infrastructure, power electric cars wirelessly, process parking transactions and display information via an LED display. The V-Pole (V standing for Vancouver) is an efficient solution to urban utility clutter, and, according to Mayor Gregor Robertson will enable “new generation communications, data and zero emission transportation.”

Coupland hopes that these multipurpose poles will eventually replace inefficient old infrastructure, reducing the need for multiple utility poles cluttering neighbourhoods. The poles will also be a statement attesting to Vancouver's readiness to transition from fossil fuel automobiles to efficient electric vehicles.

The technology for these does not yet exist, however, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation has approved a Telus proposal to build three monopoles in the West End. A monopole is similar in concept to Coupland's V-Pole. They are integrate wireless improvements with electric car charging, but lack the wifi, parking and signage features of the full V-pole. Coupland himself seems a little bit disappointed by the monopoles, likening them to giant lint rollers over his twitter. Vancouver city council has passed a motion to seek out pilot projects to develop full V-poles, so we can hope to see the full technology in the next few years.
Check out these articles to learn more about how electric cars are driving Vancouver's green future:

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Farm-To-Table: Local Sustainability

Farm-to-table (or farm-to-fork) is a food movement that promotes the traditional use of that which is closest to you. Farm-to-table advocates utilize as many local ingredients as possible, often directly from farmers in their areas or from businesses that carry local products. This sustainable approach not only results in fresher, more natural products but also helps to support local communities and economies.

This season on Top Chef Canada, 26-year old Carl Heinrich of Sooke, BC won the renowned title of Top Chef with his farm-to-table approach.

"Heinrich is deeply committed to the farm-to-table culinary philosophy. And in Top Chef Canada's final episode, Heinrich cashed in: the competitors were able to raid the garden of Hockley Valley for fresh ingredients with which they would prepare their final meal. 'Being from Toronto, I was also at an advantage in that I was able to say exactly which producer I wanted my product from.'" - Calgary Herald

A low carbon diet refers to making lifestyle choices to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions caused by energy use. It is estimated that the U.S. food system is responsible for at least 20 percent of greenhouse gases. But the 20 percent only counts from direct sources of GHG emissions. Indirect sources, such as demand for products from other countries, are often not counted, so an accurate percentage would be much higher than 20 percent. A low carbon diet minimizes the emissions released from the production, packaging, processing, preparation, and waste of food. A low carbon diet includes eating less industrial produced food in general, eating food grown locally and seasonally, eating less processed and packaged foods and reducing waste from food by proper portion size, recycling or composting.

Farm-to-table refers to, in the food safety field, the stages of the production of food: harvesting, storage, processing, packaging, sales, and consumption. Farm-to-table also refers to a movement concerned with producing food locally and delivering that food to local consumers. Linked to the local food movement, the movement is promoted by some in the agriculture, food service, and restaurants communities. It may also be associated with organic farming initiatives, sustainable agriculture, and community-supported.

Many farm-to-table advocates work hard to spread the word and to show others the importance of finding the freshest ingredients, while attempting to educate their customers about the link between farmers, farm communities, ancient food-production practices, and the food we eat. The public backlash against genetically-modified organisms in our food supply has added a note of political activism to what had been, until recently, a largely aesthetic movement. Farm-to-table restaurants may buy their produce directly from farmers, usually local. In a few cases, the restaurants and farms may be owned and operated by the same people. Restaurants who choose to buy from local food producers regularly yield healthier, better quality meals for their customers. 

This movement has arisen somewhat simultaneously with the increased knowledge and recent changes in attitude about food safety, food freshness, food seasonality, and small-farm economics. Advocates and practitioners of the farm-to-table model frequently cite as their motivations the scarcity of fresh, local ingredients; the poor flavor of ingredients shipped from afar; the poor nutritional integrity of shipped ingredients; the encroachment of genetically modified foods into the food economy; the disappearance of small family farms; the disappearance of heirloom and open-pollinated fruits and vegetables; and the dangers of a highly-centralized food-growing and -distribution system.

In the last few years the number of farm-to-table operations has grown rapidly. Recently, some food and agriculture writers have begun to describe a philosophical divide among chefs: the "food-as-art", or, in some cases, "molecular gastronomy” camp have increasingly focused on "food made strange", in which the ingredients are so transformed as to be surprising and even unrecognizable in the final food product. The farm-to-table chefs, on the other hand, have increasingly come to rely upon extremely fresh ingredients that have been barely modified, sometimes presented raw just a few feet from where they grew. Generally, the farm-to-table chefs rely on traditional farmhouse cooking with its emphasis on freshness, seasonality, local availability, and simple preparations.

Do your part and support local farmers! It is not only beneficial to the earth, it is also beneficial for the health of your families. 

xo ginny

Hailing from the small town of Sooke, BC, Carl Heinrich is the 26-year-old executive chef at Marben restaurant in Toronto. Although young, he has been working in kitchens since he was 13 years old and is extremely driven and accomplished for his age. Strong support from family and early mentors encouraged Carl to enter the culinary world. During his time at Stratford Chef School, Carl worked at a restaurant as a chef de partie and completed a summer stage for Daniel Boulud in New York City. After graduating, he took up an offer to return to New York and work at Daniel’s busy bistro in Midtown for nearly four years. Motivated by a desire to move back to Canada and be closer to family, Carl accepted a position at db Bistro Moderne in Vancouver where he worked alongside Top Chef Canada season one winner Dale MacKay. Carl's stages over the years include time at Camille's West Coast Fine Dining in Victoria, Marron Bistro in Toronto, Gramercy Tavern and Daniel in New York, Georges Blanc, La Regalade, and Le Comptoir in France and Alain Ducasse' Le Louis XV in Monaco. Carl now lives in Toronto, a city and a culinary scene he loves, where he learned the benefits of farm-to-table and nose-to-tail cooking. Inspired by ingredients and driven by French technique, Carl aims to make approachable but refined food. - Food Network

Friday, 1 June 2012

Top 10 Green Movements from Around the World

People all over the world are becoming more and more concerned about the quality of life they follow - as well as the planet they will be leaving behind. Concerns differ from country to country, and strongly depend on the level of development, but despite these differences all across the globe there is a consistent upward trend in the amount of green products, services, and solutions becoming available. No matter the reason, going green is good for the Earth!

Collaborative Corporate and Social Responsibility platform

To keep up with the green trend, producing companies are now tracking the impact their suppliers have on the environment in addition to a wide variety of other statistics. The more responsible the supplier is, the better reputation it can bring to the end-producer.

EcoVadis operates the first collaborative platform that allows companies to assess the environmental and social performance of their suppliers on a global scale. The company supports large, trans-national, and medium-sized companies with simple and reliable scorecards, covering 150 purchasing categories and 21 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) criteria. These scorecards help companies reduce the risks of using irresponsible suppliers and also introduces eco-innovation into the supply chain. The existence of such a collaborative platform is a great indication of the increasing concern companies have for responsible products. Check out the platform here!

SixthSense technology

Reducing product waste is a primary concern for many eco supporters. Through improving the quality and quantity of products we produce, many people hope to not only reduce the size of our landfills but also improve our own health and that of our atmosphere.

SixthSense technology is a combination of a projector, camera, and a mobile device that enables you to use almost any surface to make numerous operations: dial a number, edit a presentation, or surf the Internet.  By combining these elements, SixthSense reduces the amount of hardware production costs correlated with it; with this technology you won’t need a big screen and a keyboard to project an image, you only need a non-transparent physical surface. The technology combines several devices: it can be used as a laptop, mobile phone, photo-camera, or projector, thus reducing the amount of resources involved and energy used. This break-through technology was developed in November 2009 by an Indian engineer Pranav Mistr and is currently going through the commercialization process; the product should be available to the general public in the near future through different devices and formats.

Intelligent light switches and systems

In order to affect the energy consumption in the future, it is necessary to build awareness in the present. American designer and engineer Tim Holley came up with a creative way to make children into "energy champions" by creating a ghost-like light switch, called the Tio, which changes its expression and color when too much energy is used.

The Tio gives children a visual reminder of how much energy they use: it starts out green and smiling, after 4 hours it turns yellow and somewhat displeased, and after more than 8 hours it becomes red and disappointed with frown and angry eyes. In addition to its mood, the Tio light switch is connected to a computer game where children can raise a green tree, depending on the energy consumption, while parents participate by tracking scores. Of course, there is a target age group for Tio, but even some adults will be happy to see a smiling green ghost reminding them that they are consuming energy wisely.

For those that feel the Tio is not for them, there are numerous energy-saving options for adults. With the help of the intelligent devices and sensor technologies, lights can be set to turn off and on by time, light sensitivity, motion awareness, and more. For more information, check out Steinel to have a look at the variety of intelligent lighting solutions.

Zero-energy homes

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that buildings are responsible for 48% of greenhouse gas emissions annually and 76% of all electricity generated by U.S. power plants goes to supply the Building Sector Architecture 2030. Estimating these impressive figures, engineers came up with a break-through idea of a zero-energy home. The idea implies that this home will produce as much energy as it will consume. If implemented world-wide, the concept of zero-energy houses can become one of the most significant movements in decreasing energy consumption among the households.

In support of this movement there is already a technology called Passive Housing available to the general public. A passive house is a very well-insulated, virtually air-tight construction that is primarily heated by the external, passive solar energy and by the internal gains from people and even electrical equipment. Smart construction and positioning of the home's windows allows it to maximize heating benefits from the sun and limits cooling, while the recovery ventilator provides a balanced fresh air supply splitting the warm and cool air. One of the pioneers on the North-American market, making this movement available for the average house consumers, is the Canadian company Fab-Homes. Fab-Homes recently introduced its collection of specially designed houses on the base of the Passive House concept.  “The idea is to make the Passive House design more accessible and affordable and present a selection of different shapes offering flexible, ready-to-go design solutions,” says director Alexander Maurer.  

Graduate programs in Eco-Innovation and Sustainability

Any significant movement requires the support of a motivated and educated work force; as the green movement grows, an increasing number of universities and business schools are offering graduate education for individuals who want to create a socially and environmentally sustainable world .

A great indication of their fast development was given by emergence of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) organized by United Nations in mid 1980s, when the concept of sustainable development became widely discussed around the world.  Every year the non-profit organization Net Impact prepares a guide of green oriented programs to help students find a best solution for future development and recruitment; here is the link to their 2011 guide “Business as UN-usual”.

Green zero and solar chargers

With electrical consumption being such a large energy aspect to consider, individuals all over the world are being encouraged to do their part in small amounts. Saving energy by reducing usage is a key factor in many energy-saving campaigns.

To help save energy companies have developed "intelligent"  chargers for your mobile phonesClaiming to be the "most eco-friendly and efficient way to charge mobile devices," Braketron's GreenZero chargers automatically shut off once your device is charged, eliminating stand-by energy consumption. The series supports all main mobile and handled technologies including smartphones, GPS, tablet/PC, MP3, and satellite radio. Officially they are set to appear on the market in the summer 2012.

In addition to green zero chargers, designer Vivien Muller has proposed a new product to the market, Electree - the creative solar energy tree that is capable to charge your mobile device . The tree shape is made of 27 solar panels, installed on the tips of branches, making it an effective way to capture solar rays. After its initial charge for 35 hours ,prior to its first usage, you can start charging your devices through a USB connection.  It can charge your phone and recharge itself in just a few hours.

Car sharing

We are lucky to live in a time where you do not necessarily need to own a car yourself, if you live in or near a city you can easily share a car with the other citizens like you. Car sharing can be found in most large cities in North America and Europe, providing evident benefits for users by eliminating the costs of car ownership.  Broadly used, this concept is a revolution in personal transportation and urban mobility of the 21st century. This approach is not only convenient and attractive to one's wallet, it also very eco-friendly, reducing gas greenhouse emissions and the number of cars on the road.

Car sharing first appeared in Europe in the 1940’s and became more popularized in the early 1990’s; now car sharing operates in over 600 cities across the world sharing more than 11,000 vehicles. Car sharing members typically pay through hourly rates and subscription-access plans, with 24/7 access and real-time vehicle tracking. As more and more car share companies emerge, costs become competitive and even further benefits can be realized by users. In Vancouver alone there are already three car-share companies: Car2goModo, and Zip Car. Car sharing associations also have directories to find out if there is a car sharing service in your region, such as

Reusable Bags

Reusable bags are one of the most prevalent green products today because they are highly practical, for a variety of purposes, and are fairly inexpensive and easy to produce, purchase, and use. Reusable bags can be found at most grocery and retail stores and are now even being used as take-out bags for restaurants.

The company 1 & Bag at a time even boasts that you can plant your worn out bag in your garden and allow it to decompose! It can even be customized with any design you want.

Eco-friendly fashion

As one of the most popular fabrics in the textile industry, it may be surprising to many people to learn that approximately 25% of all pesticides produced in the world are used to stimulate the growth of cotton. A large amount of these chemicals are retained on the clothes we wear and are often accompanied by un-natural dyes and other artificial elements. As the world begins to demand cleaner, more natural, and healthy products, the fashion industry is slowly introducing eco-friendly fabrics and methods of production.

Most people say their purchase of eco-friendly and socially responsible clothes strongly depends on the price. In order to combat this obstacle the France-based company Veja has developed a new approach in footwear production. A group of talented entrepreneurs decided to provide the best of the best by launching  comfortable, fashionable, and reasonably priced shoes with a label of “responsibility” towards the environment. With organic cotton from Brazil, wild Amazonian rubber, and eco-friendly leather, Veja is inventing new methods of work in terms of ecological inputs, fair-trade practices, and workplace management. Keeping in line with their unique approach, Veja's strongest promotion tool is the word-of-mouth; the company does not spend a penny on the traditional means of advertising and instead chooses to save this money for proper materials and research and development projects.

Watch the making of their Volley here!

Eco-night club

Utilizing a common activity to capture energy is the idea behind most kinetic devices. Products such as exercise bikes, treadmills, sports equipment, and much more have been eco-fitted to incorporated energy harnessing systems, but what if you didn't have to buy anything new to get your energy working for the world?

The first eco-club was opened in London in 2008 where electricity was captured from people dancing at the specially modified dance floor. When compressed by dancers, it produced electricity that would be stored in batteries and used further to cover the electricity burden of a nightclub. In addition to capturing the natural energy of the guest, before entering the club people were asked to sign a pledge promising to work towards curbing climate change. This idea is not only utilize renewable energy but also to inspire youth to be more concerned of global warming and become more eco-friendly in their daily lives. 

Shaheen, Susan and Cohen, Adam, “Worldwide Car sharing Growth: An International Comparison: