green progress, large scale

There have been several positive environmental advances in Canada lately.

Ontario will ban sales of incandescent light bulbs by the year 2012. This will supposedly be the equivalent of taking a quarter-million cars off the road. (I'm not sure if that's true.)

Nova Scotia is phasing out plastic bags in their liquor stores by this fall. The city of Edmonton is considering banning plastic bags or taxing their use. The LCBO, which controls sales of wine and liquor in Ontario, is is also considering a ban. (Impudent Strumpet may have a better idea.)

Canada will soon be the first country to list Bisphenol-A as a toxic substance, and ban its use in baby bottles. The Bisphenol-A ban marks the first time Canada has taken the international lead to ban the use of a harmful substance. The Bisphenol-A ban is being compared to the US's ban of DDT 30 years ago, which was the result of pressure from consumers and environmental groups.

Quebec has already banned the use of so-called "cosmetic" pesticides, and Ontario will soon follow. Even more significant is the announcement by megastore Home Depot to stop the sale of pesticides in Canada. Canadian Tire announced it would do the same, and Loblaws has already done so in its garden centres.

This is exciting news. Pesticides have been linked with leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and Parkinson's disease. They serve no practical purpose beyond silly social customs about which plants are acceptable and which must eradicated. Long live the dandelion!

Unfortunately, this is a Canadian trend, not a North American trend. From the Globe and Mail:
The actions in Canada are also in stark contrast to the United States, where Home Depot's U.S. parent continues to sell these products nationally, although it does face some local restrictions.

How many news stories in Canada could contain that phrase, "stark contrast to the United States"?


John said...

Long live the dandelion!

The dandelion is an example of the arbitrary definition of "weed". It was brought to North America on purpose by European settlers for its medicinal and nutritional value, as well as for making wine. But social customs changed, as you said, and now dandelions are the enemy of lawns everywhere.

Maybe social customs will change again, and lawn grass will become a weed. It certainly has a noxious effect on our water supply!

L-girl said...

John, thank you for that tidbit of dandelion history. I grew up seeing my dad kill dandy-lions, and never understood it. What a silly idea.

We do have a lawn in our rental house, but we let it do whatever it wants, and if it doesn't rain, the lawn is brown.

In our old (also rental) house in Port Credit, we had beautiful wildflowers of all different colours. I loved it. A neighbour told me they were weeds and I should rip them out! As if!

Sarah O. said...

Oh, how to define a "weed"! It's a frequent topic of discussion in the gardening blogosphere, and yes, many of those definitions thrown about do in fact include lawn grass.

The thing that I find amusing is that Home Depot and Canadian Tire are phasing out pesticides from West to East, meaning excess product will probably be dumped out here in Atlantic Canada, where we have some of the oldest (and therefore, unfortunately, less all-encompassing) pesticide bans in Canada (e.g. the Halifax Regional Municipality's).

John said...

We do have a lawn in our rental house, but we let it do whatever it wants, and if it doesn't rain, the lawn is brown.

I have a lawn too, and I'm fortunate to live in an area (Nova Scotia) where I don't need to water it.

If I ever moved back to my old home in Southern Alberta, I would refuse to have a lawn, neighbours be damned. In a dry climate, lawns are a colossal waste.

Ferdzy said...

Even though we converted our building to fluorescent bulbs almost entirely at least 5 years ago (and started the process about 10 years ago) I'm a little dubious about banning incandescent bulbs. For one thing, I understand flurorescent bulbs are a patented design, while incandescent are not. Also, they are hazardous waste, due to their mercury content.

Impudent Strumpets post about the bags is food for thought too. It's a little frustrating how things are almost never quite as straightforward as they seem at first glance.

On the other hand, pesticides can't be banned too quickly to suit me. You hate dandelions THAT MUCH, feel free to dig them out. Really recalcitrant plants in spots where you don't want them can be done-in with boiling water. In fact, a number of municipalities have what are basically boiling-water pressure washers for the eradication of things like poison ivy.

Scott M. said...

re: Incandescents... technology and industry had better hurry up and get a solution for some of the more complex applications where Flourescents just won't do, such as drip-electric circuts (eg. motion detectors), dimmer switches (ya, I know they have them, but have you used them? They're horrible, hum like mad and die quickly if you put more than one on the same dimmer - even in parallel).

ErinOrtlund said...

Great news! I don't want to use chemicals on my lawn or in my garden. Everyone around me is using store-bought fertilizer on their lawns. What's a good natural alternative?

Ryan said...

I'm also a little pessimistic about the bulb ban.

a) every incandescent bulb I've seen has been imported from *where else* China. God knows where the components and materials for those components comes from. I have found old ones made in Canada.

b) how much more energy does it take to create an incandescent bulb than a regular one? I'd assume that compressing gas etc. takes a certain amount of energy. Does this outweigh benefits per bulb?

c) what about disposal? Someone mentioned the mercury, and the only place I've seen that will recycle those bulbs is IKEA. And I have to drive across the city to take them there!

d) why the hell are they so damn expensive still when the manufacturing has undoubtedly gone through the roof in the last few years? I actually assume it's to recoup the cost the losses to the manufacturer due to the fact that they are less disposable and therefore are purchased less often. Still, what the hell, capitalism?

e) how do the previous factors add up in terms of greenhouse gases?

L-girl said...

I think the fear of CFLs is a bit exaggerated.

The mercury factor is not huge.

You can save up a lot of bulbs and take them in all at once when you'll be near a recycling centre, no need to make a special trip.

Everything is made in China. I don't know how you can factor that in.

Re price, you have to figure how long they last. They last a very, very long time. I don't think the price is outrageous when you consider that.

I can't see how using CFLs could produce more greenhouse gases than using incandescents.

As for dimmers, they are easy to live without until the technology catches up.

People seem so whiny about this!

John said...

People seem so whiny about this!

I couldn't agree more. What's the problem? Yes they have mercury, but so does the pollution that comes out of the smokestack of a power plant. Apparently, switching to CFLs will result in a net decrease in mercury released into the environment. I've switched completely to CFLs, except in one case where they can't be used (inside the stove).

Of course, I consider them a transitional phase on the way to LED lighting. Current LEDs use half the energy of a comparable CFL. I'm hoping they'll be widely available around the time my fluorescents burn out. And they don't use mercury at all.

Scott M. said...

As for dimmers, they are easy to live without until the technology catches up.

The problem is that there are applications where dimmers are *necessary*. Such as in institutional buildings where they dim the lights at night for the residents. To, say, cut the lighting in half instead, they'd either need to rewire the area and even then you're left with dark areas and really bright areas. Not good.

Same issue with motion detectors, there are lots of applications where you really can't get away without them (or you might use *more* power keeping a CFL on 24/7 than you would having an incandescent on for 20 seconds a day).

I think it's a little simplistic to call the legitimate concerns "whiny".

Nancy said...

A weed is any plant that doesn't need humans to grow. Some weeds are now food (barley, tomatoes). I never understood why my mother pulled up dandelions on the lawn; I told her they were food and she didn't even want to hear it.

Nancy said...

I was looking up LED lamps. Right now they are not powerful enough to light a room. The strongest is about the same wattage as a 60 watt bulb. CFLS are good if you can get full spectrum models (yes, they do exist.) I would be very careful about 'banning' incandescents until the LEDS were ready, since the CFLS don't fit in all applications--a ceiling fan for example, won't take them.

Scott M. said...

I've got a good compromise which will allow people to continue to use incandescents where need be.

Tax the HELL out of them.

Seriously. Make incandescents twice as expensive as CFLs. That way, for those who need them, they're still available. For those who don't, they won't pay the premium.

Does that not seem a reasonable compromise?

L-girl said...

The way it stands now, the ban is going into effect in 2012. That will either be enough time for the technology to catch up, or everyone will have to adjust.

I still have incandescent bulbs in a few places where CLFs won't go - a ceiling fan and an outside motion-detected light. But when I can't replace them with incadescents, because those bulbs are not available, then I won't. I'll adjust.

If it's seems simplistic, perhaps that's because it's actually simple.

No change comes without some adjustments, some compromise, and often some convenience is lost. So, we adjust.

Scott M. said...

Let's say technology doesn't catch up, and you still can't use a CFL in a motion-detector light by 2012. Just for kicks.

Do you think it's better for the environment to have a CFL on 24/7 instead of an incandescent which is on 20 seconds a day?

L-girl said...

Do you think it's better for the environment to have a CFL on 24/7 instead of an incandescent which is on 20 seconds a day?

Well, I'm not an idiot, so I don't think I need to answer that question.

If by 2012 there's no way to put a CFL in the motion-detected light, then I will not have a light in that spot, or I'll only turn it on when I need it and am there. There was a time before we had motion-detector lights and we all managed.

That's my point about adjusting. We will just live without those particular technologies.

I'm not the greenest person around by any means. But I do accept that in order to make certain changes that use fewer resources, we will have to change certain habits and sometimes do without certain conveniences that we've become accustomed to.

To me, a dimmer switch or a motion-detected light fall squarely into that category. Others may disagree, this is just my perspective.

Scott M. said...

If by 2012 there's no way to put a CFL in the motion-detected light, then I will not have a light in that spot, or I'll only turn it on when I need it and am there.

Unfortunately, it's not all about the individual consumer/householder. It's also about the major institutions which have a liability if they don't provide light for the public. You can't expect the public to know where a light switch is, for instance. So, to reduce their impact (and save money, of course) they've put in motion detectors.

L-girl said...

What can I tell you, it just doesn't seem as worrisome to me as it does to you. Either there'll be CFLs that work with motion detectors, or these institutions will find some other way. Perhaps there'll be an exception to the ban for certain uses. Or some other workaround. There's some time to figure it out.