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Why do we have a plastic problem?

There are many reasons.

It is lightweight, flexible, strong and cheap. From the 1950s the world saw a dramatic rise in plastic production which exceeded most other materials. Its versatility and low price meant plastic started replacing more and more materials, and it started being designed for items that would make their way into our daily lives.

But the number one reason behind all that has got to be convenience.

We go to great lengths for it. To the point of extracting raw materials, processing them, making them into the desired product, packing them, distributing them, using them once and then disposing of them and doing it all again. Their disposal takes them through a waste stream which uses energy to sort and make materials into new materials after being recycled. Alternatively, these items are sent to landfill, are incinerated, creating toxic fumes or are thrown away into the environment, possibly entering drains, lakes, oceans and harming marine life.

Plastic pollution is a common sight on Lake Ontario’s beaches

These single-use or disposable plastics are the real culprits of convenience. They come in many forms: disposable coffee cups, plastic cutlery, plastic drinking containers, plastic bottles, plastic plates, plastic bags, Styrofoam food containers, plastic food containers, plastic cotton buds, plastic packaging, plastic film, plastic straws and cellophane to mention a few.

Imagine an average lunch take-out. We find a nice spot and order some food. It comes in disposable boxes, cups or tubs, holding tasty dressings and sauces in disposable pouches, served with disposable utensils, holding beverages in disposable cups or bottles and with plastic straws, keeping you clean with disposable napkins and making it convenient for you to grab and carry in a bag that could be reused, but often gets tossed.

At the end of one meal, how much waste is left behind? Is it really convenient to use the resources to produce and manage all this for such frequent and short use? Something that is given such low value and has such a high environmental impact?

Consider the alternative: reusables.

In the last few years I realized that I can make choices that will respect the planet’s resources, and not create the demand for the production and disposal of materials that are harmful to the environment. Part of the solution is to know more about the impact our choices have and choose better, reusable alternatives whenever possible and within each of our means.

I used to think that coffee cups were recyclable, but then I learnt that most are lined with plastic and just go to landfill

Now imagine grabbing a hot drink on our way to work, each day. This year has 251 working days. By switching to a reusable cup when grabbing a coffee, you’ve just kept 251 disposable cups out of landfill or the environment. And that’s just one single switch for one individual. Think of how many people live in your building or street, in your neighborhood, or even globally!

We can use less. Reusable alternatives are a simple, low-waste option to avoid contributing to the plastic pollution that is damaging our planet. Common household items can be reused.

You probably already own the tools you need – I use a simple mason jar for my takeout coffee, with no need for expensive travel mugs.  You can pull out that old Tupperware from the back of your cupboards, and even turn old t-shirts into re-usable shopping bags!

You can use a proper travel mug for your takeout coffee, or a mason jar, or just slow down and drink your coffee in the shop!

By just making a couple of swaps from single-use to reusable, I saw how much I could reduce my waste, and it’s very been so rewarding to see it happening and know the difference I’m making.

Next week I’ll share my top tips for eating and drinking zero-waste on the go!

Sophie

This blog is part of The Plastic Diaries, a new resource page answering all your questions and concerns about plastic pollution, and what we can do about it.

The post Plastic Pollution and the Myth of Convenience appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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This is a guest post by zero-waste blogger Tara McKenna. Check out her Instagram @ZeroWasteCollective for more awesome tips and encouragement on living plastic free!

I’ve always been passionate about sustainable living. We live on this amazing and beautiful planet full of biodiversity and abundant nature. Unfortunately, over the past 50-70 years, our wild and natural areas have declined in quality and quantity from resource extraction, development, deforestation, and pollution. Plastic is now incredibly prevalent in our lives, in everything from disposable bags, straws, and cutlery to coffee cups.

 

Plastic seems to be overwhelming and unavoidable. 

From a lifestyle perspective, the concept of zero waste is to avoid creating waste from the start. Most of us are well aware of the 3 Rs of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, but zero waste takes it further.

It’s committing to skip the disposables where possible, find ways to share resources in our communities, repair broken things, consume less, and when we do consume, choose high quality items that are built to last and be repairable. It’s understanding our local waste management system, but also knowing that recycling isn’t enough.  

While not perfect, the lens of zero waste helps me to rethink my choices and my purchases and make decisions that align with my values. When I started my blog, The Zero Waste Collective, I was amazed how many people were interested in the lifestyle! People want to reduce their trash, they want to reduce their impact, they want to be kinder to our planet. Although it will take much more than individual action, our individual actions are still so important.  

So, do you want to know how I tackle waste in my life? It starts with groceries!

Here are my NINE TIPS for Zero Waste Grocery Shopping!
1. Plan ahead

My husband and I keep a running list of groceries we need on a chalkboard by our kitchen. As soon as we’re low or running out of something, we add it to the shopping list. Shopping from a list helps us to avoid duplication when grocery shopping and ensures that we only buy what we need. 

2. Use the List to Prep for Shopping

Because we have a grocery list on the chalkboard, I know exactly what types of (clean) reusable bags and containers we’ll need for groceries. I’ll prepare everything accordingly and make a list of the different stores I need to go to. For bulk foods, I’ll determine how many jars, containers and reusable bags I need based on the list. For regular groceries and the bakery, I bring large tote bags and smaller produce & bread bags to avoid any need to take a disposable plastic bag from the store. We also use bottle return programs for milk and yogurt, so when I need to replace those items, I make sure the empty jars and bottles are clean and ready to return. 

3. Bring my own cup

If I’m stopping for a tea latte while I’m on the go, I’ll only have one if I’ve remembered my reusable travel mug. It’s non-negotiable for me; if I didn’t bring it and I don’t plan on having my tea in the coffee shop, I don’t get one. There are no disposable coffee/tea cups in my life.  

4. At the Bulk Shop

There are a few places where I can get bulk foods in my own containers where I live, but I quite often end up at Bulk Barn because of their wide variety of food and their reusable container program. I get my bags and containers weighed by staff, then with my grocery list I fill up on things like flour, chocolate chips, granola, peanut butter, and so much more. I carefully fill each bag and container without my container or bag touching the bulk food, then I grab the food item number with a picture from my phone so that when I get to the till it’s quick and easy for staff to weigh and input each product. Then I pay and go! 

5. At the Regular Grocery Store

Armed with my grocery list, I start in the produce section. I avoid any fruit and vegetables wrapped in plastic. I only buy naked produce and put them in my own reusable bags. I grab other things I need, choosing to stick to more easily reusable and recyclable materials like glass jars and cardboard. It’s not 100% zero waste, but I’ve truly let the zero waste lens inform our grocery shopping choices and we reduce as much packaging and plastic from our shopping as possible. 

A zero-waste grocery shop – beautiful and sustainable! 6. Try Bottle Return Programs

We have a couple of grocery stores where I live where there are bottle and jar return programs for milk and yogurt. I bring those empty and clean jars/bottles back to the grocery store, get the deposit I paid back for those bottles, and get the replacements I need.  

7. Buying Bread Zero Waste

Either the at the farmer’s market, local bakeries, or bakery at the grocery store, I’ve never had any issue with using my own containers or bags for baked goods. We no longer buy bread in plastic bags, instead, we buy freshly baked bread or buns from the bakery and buy them with our own reusable bags.  

8. Visit the Farmer’s Market

I love shopping at the farmer’s market for local food and produce. Ours is open year-round but is much bigger during the growing season. It’s great because the vendors are happy to help when I come with my own bags and containers, and it’s nice to see the same faces each week and connect in the community. 

9. When I get Home

Unpacking my (mostly) zero waste haul is fun. The jars go right into the pantry and look great, plus it’s easy to see in the clear containers how much of each food we have. The bread gets wrapped in beeswax wrap to keep it fresher and for it to last longer, then goes back into the bread bag. If I have enough time, I’ll chop up the veggies for the fridge. Things like celery and carrots should go in water so they don’t dry out. I like to have my kale washed as soon as possible so it doesn’t wilt, then I store it in a large container wrapped in a damp tea towel in the fridge. This helps the kale last for 1-2 weeks. Once all is said and done, there’s no trash and very little recycling, and certainly NO PLASTIC BAGS.  

 This process and system didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of time to determine what we need and want in our kitchen in terms of groceries, and what we could say goodbye to (like frozen veggies). Plus, we had to figure out where we could buy everything based on our new values.

 Overall, it takes time to figure out what you can buy and from where, and to find out if it’s personally sustainable to maintain this new approach to shopping.

Ultimately, you have to do what works best for you based on your circumstances, what’s available, and your budget. From there, have fun! Explore! Join your community in new ways.  

This blog is part of The Plastic Diaries, a new resource page answering all your questions and concerns about plastic pollution, and what we can do about it.

The post A Day in the Life – Nine tips for zero-waste grocery shopping! appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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With longer days and warmer weather on the way, Canadians are daydreaming about the day when you can finally dip your toe back into that lake or ocean – or even just dive in head first.

And we have some great news for you: this year more beaches and marinas have been awarded the Blue Flag than ever before!

This year, 28 beaches and 12 marinas from the Pacific to Atlantic oceans and everywhere in between are being recognized as the best-of-the-best. In order to receive a Blue Flag, beaches and marinas meet a set of strict standards under four criteria categories: Environmental Education, Environmental Management, Water Quality, and Safety & Services.

We’re happy to welcome three new marinas and one new beach to the Blue Flag program—including our first Northwestern Ontario flag!

  • Parlee Beach – Parlee Beach Provincial Park, New Brunswick
  • Shediac Bay Yacht Club – Shediac, New Brunswick
  • Tall Pines Marina – Kenora, Ontario
  • Loyalist Cove Marina – Bath, Ontario
Shediac Bay Yacht Club, in Shediac, NB, is another beautiful place to go boating this summer!

These top-quality waterfront destinations join over 4,000 beaches and marinas in 45 countries that have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in order to receive the Blue Flag.

Blue Flag is an international eco-certification that originated in Europe in 1987, and is administered internationally by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). In Canada, Environmental Defence is the national operator of the program.

Environmental education is an important part of achieving the Blue Flag award. Visitors are encouraged to connect with the nature – splash in the water, play with the sand, learn about the local birds, plants and underwater creatures, and how to protect the health of the shoreline ecosystem. Blue Flag beach and marina managers are working to ensure Canada’s beaches, lakes, and coasts can be enjoyed for generations of summer fun traditions.

So, the next time you’re thinking about that perfect boating or beach destination, check out the beaches and marinas listed on blueflag.ca or blueflag.global and choose to visit a Blue Flag. You know it will be well maintained, managed responsibly, and a great spot to spend some quality time with your friends and family.

The post Record number of Blue Flags flying across Canada – time to plan that summer vacay! appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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This summer, Canadians can visit 28 beaches and 12 marinas which have been certified as clean, safe and sustainably managed

Toronto, Ont. — Today, a record 28 beaches and 12 marinas from across Canada were awarded the Blue Flag, the most ever certified in Canada’s 15 year history with the program.  The Blue Flag is a highly prestigious international eco-certification program awarded each year, which sets the gold-standard for water quality, environmental management and education, safety, and amenities.

This year, Blue Flag Canada is welcoming four new sites, including both Parlee Beach and Shediac Bay Yacht Club in Shediac, NB.  The other two new Blue Flags will be flying in Ontario, at Tall Pines Marina in Kenora and Loyalist Cove Marina in Bath.

“When you see a Blue Flag flying at a beach or marina, you know that it’s clean, safe and sustainably managed,” said Kelsey Scarfone, Water Programs Manager with Environmental Defence. “These world-class beaches and marinas have worked hard to achieve the standards set by this prestigious award, and we’re proud to recognize that accomplishment today.”

The Blue Flag is administered in Canada by Environmental Defence and is managed internationally by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). More than 4,000 beaches and marinas in 45 countries fly the Blue Flag.

Here is the list of the 28 beaches and 12 marinas that have received the Blue Flag in Canada this year:

British Columbia:

  • Gibsons Marina (Gibsons)

Manitoba:

  • West Grand Beach (Grand Beach Provincial Park)

New Brunswick:

  • Aboiteau Beach (Cap-Pelé)
  • Parlee Beach Provincial Park (Shediac)
  • Shediac Bay Yacht Club (Shediac)

Nova Scotia:

  • Halifax Waterfront (Halifax)

Ontario:

  • Bayfield Main Beach and Bluewater Marina (Municipality of Bluewater)
  • Bell Park Beach and Moonlight Beach (Sudbury)
  • Bluffer’s Park Beach, Centre Island Beach, Cherry Beach, Gibraltar Point Beach, Hanlan’s Point Beach, Kew-Balmy Beach, Ward’s Island Beach and Woodbine Beach (Toronto)
  • Canatara Park Beach (Sarnia)
  • City of Barrie Marina (Barrie)
  • Colchester Harbour Marina (Town of Essex)
  • Grand Bend Beach, Grand Bend Marina and Port Franks Marina (Municipality of Lambton Shores)
  • LaSalle Park Marina (Burlington)
  • Loyalist Cove Marina (Bath)
  • Outlet Beach (Sandbanks Provincial Park)
  • Port Burwell East Beach (Municipality of Bayham)
  • Port Glasgow Beach (Municipality of West Elgin)
  • Port Stanley Main Beach (Municipality of Central Elgin)
  • Trent Port Marina (City of Quinte West)
  • Tall Pines Marina (Kenora)
  • Victoria Beach (Cobourg)
  • Wasaga Beach area 1, Wasaga Beach area 2 and Wasaga Beach area 5 (Wasaga Beach Provincial Park)
  • Waubuno Beach (Parry Sound)

Quebec:

  • Plage de l’Est, plage de l’Ouest, and plage des Cantons (Ville de Magog)

More details about the Blue Flag program and the certified marinas and beaches can be found at BlueFlag.ca.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca):  Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

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For more information, images or interview requests please contact:

Rachel Kitchin, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext. 246; 416-805-0026 (cell); rkitchin@environmentaldefence.ca or media@environmentaldefence.ca.

The post Forty beaches and marinas across Canada awarded the Blue Flag in record year appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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This is a guest post by Sophie Jacazio, Environmental Defence Outreach team member and zero-waste champion.  Over the following blog series Sophie is going to share her journey to going plastic-free, as well as tips and ideas to help you avoid waste too.

There is one moment I remember vividly. The sun was shining bright through the windows onto the wooden classroom floor during our morning break at elementary school in the mountains of Northern Italy. My friend Madda had just finished her snack she had brought from home, held the little empty bag but didn’t toss it in the garbage, she put it away in her bag.

I asked her why she did that. She said she could use it again.
Something clicked: I remember thinking that if the bag was used again, her mum would not have to buy or use as many snack bags. It made sense.

This simple moment took place a long time ago, but through the years that little seed of realization grew and evolved into an amazing sense of understanding and purpose.

Growing up in the Italian Prealps, I was always surrounded by the woods, hills, trees, wild flowers, vegetable gardens in the summer, wildlife and natural sounds. Witnessing the seasons change so remarkably was part of my life. However, it wasn’t until later that my true passion for the environment emerged. It was always there, but realizing how strong it was happened gradually. It really started after I had moved to the big urban mass that is London, UK and then Hangzhou, China for my studies, and saw first hand what a huge effect people are having on our beautiful planet.

With my family in London, I found myself getting excited about putting out the heaps of packaging we had accumulated on recycling day. I loved the idea that these resources would be re-used or repurposed into something else.

But spending a university year in Hangzhou was so different. For the first time I was living in a place where the landscape, roads, street signs and people’s culture were all different from what I was used to. For the first time I looked around me and saw everything with new eyes. This new environment was making me and letting me change.

On a visit to Xiamen, China in 2008. Looking back at this photo now I can’t help but think that those straws still exist somewhere, either in a landfill or in the ocean. Back then I wasn’t aware of the traces left by something as simple as drinking with plastic straws.

Seeing the packed train stations, squares, and busy shopping streets made me think of how many humans live on this planet. When I was visiting historical places I had only heard of, or seen in documentaries about China, I saw plastic and waste on every corner, and I couldn’t help but be blown away by just how much we use and throw out every day.

But I was also fascinated to watch visitors handing out empty plastic bottles to people collecting them to be sold. It made me realize that while we see something as trash, others may see it as a resource.

Over the last few years, I’ve started to see that everything we do has an effect on the Earth, and that if we want to help this planet thrive, we need to acknowledge that our actions have an impact.

Toronto is my home now. After a year here, I have been a part of different communities, environmental organizations, low-waste initiatives and groups. My passion makes me want to continuously do better and inspire those around me to lower our impact at any opportunity, and it’s so rewarding!

We all have different journeys which shape who we are. I want to show you how my experience has led me to use less, while making me feel so much richer.

There has never been a better time to start enjoying lowering out impact on our beautiful planet, and I look forward to sharing a few of the lessons that I’ve learned on my journey to zero waste.

This blog is part of The Plastic Diaries, a new resource page to help with all your questions and concerns about plastic pollution, and what we can do about it.

The post Feeling richer using less – the start of my journey to go plastic free appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE and STAND.EARTH

New Alberta government should implement the 100 megatonne limit on carbon emissions, say environmental groups

Toronto, Ont. –  New data shows that Alberta’s legislated cap on greenhouse gas emissions may be close to being exceeded, requiring the immediate passage of regulations needed to implement the cap.

New research by scientists with Environment and Climate Change Canada, published in the journal Nature Communications, shows emissions from surface oil sands mining are 30 per cent higher, on average, than reported by the companies. If this applies to all oil sands operations, Alberta’s emissions cap may have already been exceeded.

“Breaking through the cap would violate a legally binding promise made to the world by Alberta,” said Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director of Stand.Earth. “This would also require federal action to ensure that spiralling emission increases do not violate Canada’s climate change commitments.”

Oil sands are the fastest growing source of carbon emissions in Canada. To address this growing climate threat, in 2016 the Alberta government passed the Alberta Oil Sands Emission Limit Act. The act sets out a limit of 100 megatonnes (MT) of emissions that can be released from the oil sands each year. However, to be implementable, the act requires the development of a regulatory process to assign space under this cap to different operators and to allow accurate tracking of emissions so the cap is respected.

According to Canada’s latest GHG inventory, emissions have increased from 71 MT/year in 2015 to 81 MT in 2017, an increase of 14% in just two years. If oil sands operations’ emissions are 30 per cent higher than reported, as demonstrated by the recent study in Nature Communications, total emissions from the oil sands could be 105 MT or higher.

The Oil Sands Advisory Group, established by the Alberta government, delivered consensus recommendations on this regulatory framework two years ago, but it has not been implemented.

“We are rapidly approaching, or perhaps even exceeding, the emissions limit legislated by the Alberta government,” said Keith Brooks of Environmental Defence Canada.  “It’s urgent the government implements the regulations meant to orderly assign emission space to each oil sands facility. Further delay will greatly increase the chances that the cap will be exceeded.”

About STAND.EARTH: Stand.earth (formerly ForestEthics) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with offices in Canada and the United States that is known for its groundbreaking research and successful corporate and citizens engagement campaigns to create new policies and industry standards in protecting forests, advocating the rights of indigenous peoples, and protecting the climate. Visit us at www.stand.earth and follow us on Twitter @standearth.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Barbara Hayes; Communications Manager, Environmental Defence;  bhayes@environmentaldfence.ca

The post New data shows Alberta’s cap on oil sands emissions potentially already exceeded appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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Ottawa, Ont. – Today, Canada’s leading environmental organizations released a set of 20 federal party platform recommendations that address the climate, biodiversity, toxics and waste crises that are harming our country.

These recommendations represent the collective priorities of the 14 organizations and reflect a comprehensive set of solutions to today’s most urgent environmental challenges. These platform priorities are currently being discussed with each of the five main federal political parties to help them develop their own set of committed actions.

In late summer 2019, the organizations will release a non-partisan, comparative evaluation of the environmental platforms of all the parties, to help Canadians make informed voting decisions.

Signatories: Canadian Environmental Law Association, CPAWS, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, ecojustice, équiterre, Environmental Defence, Greenpeace, Nature Canada, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, West Coast Environmental Law Association, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, WWF-Canada

The 20 federal party platform recommendations can be found here.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Allen Braude, Environmental Defence, abraude@environmentaldefence.ca,

The post 14 leading national environmental organizations release platform expectations for the federal election appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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Media advisory/Interview Opportunities: Industry and advocates lobby on the Hill to ask for stronger toxics and cosmetics laws

Ottawa, Ont. – Today, the North American leader in the safer skin care and cleaner cosmetics category, Beautycounter, and leading advocacy organization, Environmental Defence, will be in Ottawa to lobby for stronger toxics and cosmetics laws that are good for business and public health.

WHEN: Monday, May 6 to Tuesday, May 7

WHERE: Parliament Hill, Ottawa

WHO: Interview opportunities with Muhannad Malas, Toxics Program Manager at Environmental Defence, and Lindsay Dahl, Senior Vice President of Social Mission, Beautycounter.

In addition to many important recommendations highlighted by the Standing Committee’s review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999 (CEPA), Beautycounter and Environmental Defence are proposing the following to mitigate Canadians’ exposure to toxics from cosmetics and personal care products and create greater economic opportunity for the safer cosmetics sector:

  1. Codify the cosmetics Hot List in law and strengthen enforcement,
  2. prohibit hormone disrupting phthalates in cosmetics,
  3. mandate full disclosure and labelling of fragrance ingredients, and
  4. better address heavy metals in colour cosmetics.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Sarah Jamal, Environmental Defence, sjamal@environmentaldefence.ca, 416-323-9521 ext. 251 (work), 905-921-7786 (cell)

Meaghan Curcio, Beautycounter, meaghan.curcio@beautycounter.com

 

 

The post Media advisory/Interview Opportunities: Industry and advocates lobby on the Hill to ask for stronger toxics and cosmetics laws appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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Guest blog by Emma Rohmann, an environmental engineer, mom of two and founder of Green at Home

Are you doing enough to reduce air pollution? And no, I’m not talking about reducing smog. I’m talking about the air quality inside your home, which has been found to be 2 – 5 times more polluted than outside air by the U.S. EPA. Since we spend upwards of 90 per cent of our time indoors, this is definitely concerning. But the good news is, there are simple actions you can take to improve your indoor air quality – and your health.

Although you may not be able to see indoor air pollution, that doesn’t make it any less toxic. These invisible indoor air pollutants are in products we use every day and are found in everything from our personal  care products and cleaners to laundry soap and fabric softeners. And those air fresheners? They’re making your air anything but fresh.

Even low levels of these pollutants in our homes are linked with cancer, hormone disruption, allergies, asthma and chronic diseases.

The good news is that there are ways you can help reduce your overall exposure to indoor air pollutants without having to completely overhaul your home.

Sources of indoor air pollution

Before you can reduce indoor air pollution, you need to understand what’s causing it in the first place.

  1. Body care products have to list all ingredients on the label, with one big exception: fragrance. It might not look like a problem, but the fragrance/parfum/aroma you see on ingredient lists can include any number of hundreds of harmful chemicals that include carcinogens, asthmagens and hormone disruptors.
  2. Cleaning products are not required to disclose ingredients on the label at all – and this is not because they’re safe. In fact, Environmental Defence tested the impact of cleaning products on indoor air quality. They found that all cleaning products (even those labelled as “green”) increased the VOCs (or volatile organic compounds) in the air during and after cleaning.
  3. Dust is a surprising source of high concentrations of flame retardants from furniture and electronics.
  4. Fabric softener and dryer sheets coat your clothes in a combination of chemicals including synthetic fragrance and anti-static ingredients that are asthmagens and allergens.
  5. Room sprays and air fresheners are similar to other cleaning products, and contribute synthetic fragrance ingredients and VOCs to your indoor air.
Simple ways to reduce indoor air pollution in your home

Here are some simple tips to help you improve the indoor air quality in your home:

  • Choose natural cleaning products that are free from synthetic fragrance and that disclose their ingredients. Use the Environmental Defence Toxic Ten Pocket Guide to help you avoid the worst ingredients.
  • Run your exhaust fans and/or open windows to help flush outside air through your home whenever possible. This is especially important when cleaning.
  • Skip the fabric softener or dryer sheets. Opt for natural alternatives like wool dryer balls instead.
  • Consider an air purifier to help further reduce indoor air pollutants, particularly if you suffer from asthma or allergies. Plants may help clean the air as well, but they aren’t a complete purification solution (learn more here).
  • Avoid using room sprays and air fresheners. If you need to freshen up the space, open windows.

The post How to tackle indoor air pollution in your home appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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Ontario spent years on a plan to grow smartly – to build a variety of housing in the places people want to live, while protecting the environment. But many developers weren’t happy. They felt there were too many rules and wanted changes that benefited their industry.

Last week, the Ontario government introduced a new housing plan in the legislature. The More Homes, More Choice bill (Bill 108) is a sprawl developer’s dream come true. Bill 108 amends 13 different pieces of legislation, and many of these policy amendments diminish the voice of citizens in shaping their communities, put communities at risk and threaten long fought environmental protections. The amendments include:

  • removing rules that protect endangered species
  • removing rules that control flooding
  • reducing the density targets that help limit sprawl
  • bringing back the old Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) rules for managing land use disputes that favours rich developers
  • weakening environmental impact assessments
  • reducing costs for developers, such as development charges that help fund parks and community centres

Called visionary by the housing industry, the Housing Plan enabled by Bill108 makes it easier and cheaper for developers to build housing, but doesn’t mean that the housing built will be more affordable. For communities, recent provincial policy changes reduce opportunities for public involvement, download development costs to municipalities, and increase sprawl and farmland loss.

Bill 108 delivers what developers asked for. Bill 108 means reduced costs for developers and higher costs for everyone else.

How does Bill 108 affect my community?

Expect more greenfield sprawl developments on farmland. The new Growth Plan lowers the number of houses per acre and allows expansions of settlement boundaries. Low density growth costs us all in higher taxes, a longer commute and air pollution from increased commuting. In cities, Bill 108 supports more housing and rental housing, but if recent trends continue. it’s likely much of the housing will be luxury units. There is a piece of good news – around major transit stations expect more mid-rise development within a 10 minute walking radius. There are also incentives to build low-income housing near public transit.

But other changes are problematic and undemocratic. For instance, the Local Appeal Planning Tribunal, formerly known as the OMB, will now limit citizens groups from launching appeals. Municipalities also lose out, as the legislation reverts back to giving the final say on land use planning decisions to an unelected tribunal, rather than your elected municipal council. Expect less parkland as Bill 108 changes the funding formula for park space and amenities like libraries.

Does the Bill make housing more affordable?

Before the legislation was introduced, the CMHC noted, “Across Ontario, prospective buyers should expect more choice by 2020 while owners and investors should dampen their price and return expectations.” In other words, house prices in Ontario are already on their way down from a high in 2017, but it’s unclear if prices will ever become affordable in Toronto.  Many issues affect the affordability of housing – from low wages to factors beyond provincial jurisdiction – as noted in our blog. But supply isn’t an issue – it’s low income housing that’s needed. Right now there are thousands of housing units approved to be built. By 2031, over 700,000 units are coming into the resale market with over 300,000 acres of land designated for new housing and employment uses. Allowing more low density sprawl development does not make housing more affordable.

Bill 108 losers are citizens, endangered species and the environment. When all the wins for the development industry are considered, opening Ontario ‘for business’ takes on a whole new meaning.

The post Ontario is making sprawl developer dreams come true appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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