Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment
Fisherville, Ontario, Canada
Tel. 416 410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231
Vol. 16, No. 2, May 18, 2011
Honoured Reader Edition

This is the honoured reader edition of the Gallon Environment Letter and is distributed at no charge: send a note with Add GL or Delete GL in the subject line to Subscribers receive a more complete edition without subscription reminders and with extensive links to further information following almost every article. Organizational subscriptions are $184 plus HST nd provide additional benefits detailed on the web site. Individual subscriptions are only $30 (personal emails/funds only please) including HST. If you would like to subscribe please visit If you feel you should be receiving the paid subscriber edition or have other subscriber questions please contact us also at This current free edition is posted on the web site about a week or so after its issue at See also events of external organizations at Back free editions from January 2009 are also available.

While researching another issue we came upon a very strange rule restricting the labelling of the term local in Canada to foods produced within 50km. Our editorial explains further.

Our theme is this issue is CleanTech. Interestingly the government sees fit to tell us, in a restrictive way, which foods can be labelled local and which foods cannot but no one has properly defined CleanTech. We have seen all kinds of polluting technologies labelled as clean tech and all kinds of promising clean technologies not labelled with any claim of environmental responsibility. Even so, governments are pushing clean technology as a key component of the environmental salvation of humankind. We bring you a range of articles on many aspects of clean technology, from oil sands to organic agriculture and from renewable energy to electric vehicles and their batteries, which may help make everything more clear or maybe they just show how foggy the clean technology field actually is. We would draw your attention to the article entitled SDTC: Cleantech Report 2010. We think this recent report is especially insightful.

We also mention a couple of upcoming events that are relevant to clean technology and sustainable development. We will in future be mentioning more such events on our Gallon Letter events page, now moved to If you are organizing an event of interest to the sustainable development, renewable energy, and/or environment and business audiences in North America please send information and web link to for our information.

This issue also includes two book reviews: How Bad Are Bananas? and Time To Eat The Dog. What is it about Life Cycle Assessment that inspires such amazing titles?

Guess what? The State of Oregon is actively considering legislation to tax electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to compensate for loss of gasoline tax revenue. How uncreative! How soon before the governments of Canada or of a province do the same?

Next issue we will look at the issue of food waste and maybe at the regurgitated federal budget and Speech from the Throne. Meanwhile, we encourage you to send your comments to We will publish a selection.


Gallondaily is a new free daily (mostly Monday to Friday) version of Gallon Environment Letter. Gallondaily focuses somewhat more than our monthly version on current environment issues that we consider may be of interest to the broader business community. Recent Gallondaily headlines have included such topics as:

Ban on Inefficient Lightbulbs Postponed
New Bipartisan Energy Efficiency Bill in Congress
Renewable Energy Becoming More Competitive
PAH Concerns: Pavement Sealant Ban
Sustainably Produced Bananas

We are not suggesting that you visit every day, though we certainly invite you if you wish to do so, but a once a week quick browse will help you to keep up with a business perspective on some of the many Canadian, North American, and global environmental topics. It is a quick, and currently no cost, way to keep up with the flow of environmental issues.


The following notice is provided by the event sponsors:

Sustainability Applied 2011, which is the successor to the Canadian Pollution Prevention Roundtable, will be an interactive event focussed on inspiring and driving sustainable behaviour and breaking down barriers to change. It will highlight experiences, approaches and expertise of leaders and practitioners on the practical application of sustainability solutions in the private and public sectors.

Experts across Canada and the United States will be collaborating to frame sustainability issues and discuss opportunities to apply and adopt sustainable solutions to enhance competitiveness, minimize business risks, and reduce our environmental footprints. We are targeting a wide variety of attendees, including:
Information on this event can be found at

The Government banned them, every one
When will they ever learn?

Well not quite every one, but 75% of the foods that most of us would consider local foods are prohibited from being labelled as local by the federal regulatory agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Most people think of local food as food that is produced within 100 km, or maybe even 100 miles, but CFIA has established a limit of 50 km. We asked them why and have not yet received an answer. Their only answer is to tell us that the only food that can legally be labelled local is food produced either in the municipality where it is being sold or in a municipality that is within 50km. If any other food is being sold as 'local' the seller is breaking the law, the product may be seized, and the seller may be prosecuted.

To give some examples (Google maps provided us with the data), fruit from the Annapolis Valley cannot be sold as local in Halifax because Wolfville, one of the easternmost communities in the Annapolis Valley, is 89 km from Halifax. Food from Flamborough, a very productive vegetable growing area in the rural part of the City of Hamilton, cannot be sold as 'local' in downtown Toronto because Flamborough (village of Waterdown) is 68.5km from downtown Toronto. Food grown around Abbotsford, BC, said to be the dominant agricultural community in BC, cannot be sold as local in downtown Vancouver because Abbotsford is 77km from Vancouver.

Of course, not everyone abides by the rules and we have yet to hear of any strict enforcement but clearly the CFIA regulation is inhibiting large grocery chains from advertising 'local' food. Some rule may be needed. For example, the Beef Information Centre recently advised beef producer to beef up their business with the theme “Canadian beef is local”. Most beef is shipped to a few large centralized processing plants and the information doesn’t tell producers how to ensure their claim of locally produced is legal. But surely the role of the federal government should be to support and encourage Canadian agriculture, and especially small farmers, to expand creative marketing opportunities. Gallon Letter urges the Federal Government to extend the definition of local food to at least 100 km from the centre of the community in which the product is being offered for sale. That way, even people living in West Vancouver could support Abbottsford farmers by buying local.

By the way, our claim (above) that the government regulation of 50km radius is eliminating 75% of foods that could be advertised as local if the rule were 100km is based on the area of a circle. A circle with a radius of 50 km has 25% of the area, and therefore, on average, 25% of the number of farms or area of farms, of a circle with a radius of 100km.

We welcome your thoughts and will publish a selection of those received. Email your letters to and, if you choose to support CFIA's position, please try, if you know, to let us know where the 50 km limit for local food may have been conceived.

For those who are looking for complete details of CFIA's rules, a summary of the most recent responses to Gallon Letter from CFIA on this topic will be posted on the Gallon Daily blog at Our inquiries on this issue have attracted quite a bit of attention from local food advocates and we will be reporting further in a future issue of Gallon Environment Letter.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.



In April, 2011, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter announced a new fund of $24 million for clean technology. He described clean technology as representing "a diverse range of products and services intended to provide superior performance at lower costs, while minimizing negative ecological impact and using natural resources responsibly." The Nova Scotia fund will be administered by Innovacorp, the province's technology commercialization agency, to achieve the goals of the jobsHere initiative. Innovacorp has a trademarked program called High Performance Incubation (TM). The clean technology fund, like others such as Cycle Carbon already managed by Innovacorp, aims to attract other sources of private and public funding and help early stage companies borrow money and gain expert advice and other support.

Innovacorp's assistance to help early stage knowledge-based companies is designed to help them become "fit for the fight take on global markets" according to Nova Scotia Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, Percy Paris, who wrote an introduction to the crown agency's business plan for Budget 2011. In 2010, Innovacorp won the 2010 Incubator of the Year award at the US-based National Business Incubation Association. Innovacorp's President and CEO Clifford M. Gross, appointed in January 2011, wrote in the plan, "At Innovacorp, we want to help Nova Scotia’s new companies maximize their potential through seeing the value they can create by efficiently bringing their intellectual capital to the global marketplace." The work in regard to the new clean technology venture capital fund for the next year will include structuring and managing it for Nova Scotia. Gross was to speak at the 2nd Annual Canadian Cleantech Summit which was scheduled to be held in Ottawa at the end of April but indefinitely postponed due to the federal election.

One of the companies said to benefit from the fund is Carbon Sense Solutions which captures carbon dioxide emissions from industry into production of cast concrete products.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


Using a case study of semiconductor manufacturing published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, Eric Williams of the School of Sustainable Engineering and Built Environment at Arizona State University and co-author Liqui Deng explore the idea of technological progress and the interconnection with environmental challenges faced by society. Technology solves some environmental problems and creates others. In many cases, the measure used for indicating environmental improvements are based on the functionality, environmental impact per unit of service e.g. gasoline used per distance travelled in a vehicle. Functionality measures also include energy efficiency of appliances, fuel efficiency of automobiles and energy intensities of manufacturing and other industrial processes.

They propose another measure, "typical product" which accounts also for changes in consumer demand as the product changes, the environmental impact for the total service demanded for example, a more fuel efficient car means people may buy a bigger car or drive more. Other similar measures which include the growth of demand include IPAT (Environmental Impacts = Population x Affluence x Technology) and rebound effect where, for example, more energy efficient air-conditioning is offset by greater use of air-conditioning. Such considerations are not common in assessing advances in technology.

Products aren't static over time. As technology changes the products, the design and use of the products changes the environmental impacts in ways different than before. Three different effects occur:
Their study investigated electricity use in the manufacture of Intel desktop microprocessors MPUs from 1995 to 2006.

Among their observations were:
The authors conclude that the common practice in industry of measuring, say energy use per physical output, and concluding this is an environmental benefit may not be a good benchmark.

Deng, Liqui and Eric D. Williams. Functionality Versus "Typical Product" Measures of Technological Progress: A Case Study of Semiconductor Manufacturing. Journal of Industrial Ecology. (Official Journal of the International Society for Industrial Ecology ISIE) Vol. 15. No. 1. February 2011.p108-121 [Subscription] Web site:


At Suncor's annual general meeting held May 3, 2011, Steve Williams, Suncor's Chief Operation Officer summarized key milestones for Suncor in improving environmental performance. In September 2010, Suncor became the first company to complete surface reclamation of an oil sands tailings pond, now called Wapisiw Lookout. The company committed to spending at least $1 billion between 2010 and 2012 for new tailings and reclamation technology called TRO (TM) in its oil sands operations. This is expected to reduce the need from five to one new tailings ponds and speed reclamation time by two-thirds.

Suncor also has a target of $750 million in renewable energy including both wind and biofuels.

In closing President Rick George said that Suncor embraces a vision of sustainable development: "triple bottom line that says energy resources should be produced and used in a way that generates economic growth, promotes social well being, and protects the environment.... Key to our journey will be harnessing technology."

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


At the Cleantech Forum Amsterdam, WWF-Netherlands released a sequel to its 2009 Clean Economy, Living Planet report. The new report updates information on whether countries have improved their Cleantech rankings from 2008. Donald Pols, Head, Climate Program, sent along the Index and some preliminary findings, writing that the full report would be released by the end of May.

The reason for WWF's interest in cleantech is to "reduce CO2 emissions and protect animal life." The analysis focuses on value added Cleantech related to renewable energy and energy efficiency products. For example, power generation such as wind and solar, power storage such as fuel cells and flywheels, energy efficiency such as LED lighting, micro combined heat power and insulation and e-mobility such as battery and electric power train.

In absolute terms, China has become the leader in energy Cleantech with a total value of EUR 45 billion.

In the work in progress, other observations are:
Barriers to cleantech growth for The Netherlands were identified resulting in a discussion of what contributes to growth of the Cleantech sector which includes:
WWF-Netherlands. Clean Economy, Living Planet - Ready for growth. Report. Prepared by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: May 9, 2011. [email copy]
and the original report
Clean Economy, Living Planet: Building strong clean energy technology industries. Prepared for WWF-Netherlands by Roland Berger Strategies Consultants. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: November 2009.


E. Ann Clark, retired as of January 2011 as professor at the University of Guelph. spoke at the Grey Bruce Farmers Week in January on sustainable agriculture. It is a theme to which she has dedicated her career and, it seems, the rest of her life as she has bought 100 acre-farm where she hopes to demonstrate reduced use of energy through ecological and organic practices.

Clark explained that organic is necessary for sustainability because unlike the specialized, consolidated and globalized industrial ag-businesses, organic ag internalizes external costs. If all ag businesses had to pay all the external environmental, health and social costs, everybody would be organic. For example, concentrated feed lots cause runoff of growth hormones which aren't used in organic farming. "If every farmer had to absorb the costs routinely externalized by farms today," she explained, "many common practices would be prohibitively expensive."

However, organic farming by itself isn't enough because while the ag system uses 19% of the national energy only 7% is used on-farm. The other 12% is post-farmgate e.g. in processing, packaging, transport, refrigeration and meal preparation. Organic farming by itself doesn't address all those issues and also relies on cheap energy. Jon Radojkovic writing about the January session wrote, "Up to 85% of organic food is imported into Canada and organic farmers use mechanized systems, the same as conventional farmers. She challenged organic farmers to think of what the post-oil world would look like and to start thinking in those ways."

Clark., E. Ann. The Future is Organic (but organic is not enough).

Radojkovic, Jon. Sun Times (Owen Sound) Correspondent Energy changes will affect farming. January 11, 2011.


Economic development has, in the past, been linked to more energy use which in turn has contributed to increased greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate change. CO2 emissions, mostly from the consumption of fossil fuels, accounts for the majority of human-caused GHGs. Renewable energy RE is often seen as helping to decouple the correlation between economic growth and climate change.

About 80% of world energy demand could be met by renewables by 2050 if public policies are well-directed, according to a summary report to policy makers issued by a working group for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. GHG emission reductions from the use of renewable energy could lead to greenhouse gas savings of 220 to 560 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent between 2010 and 2050. If the GHG savings are at the upper end, this could be a cut from the business as usual scenario of one third of emissions and this could keeping global concentrations of greenhouse gases to 450 parts per million. This would meet the goal of keeping the global temperature rise to below 2 degrees, as agreed at the Cancun and Copenhagen international climate meetings.

John Nyboer from Canada is one of the lead authors. He is a University Research Associate and Adjunct Professor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management. In this capacity, he acts as the executive director of the Energy and Materials Research Group (EMRG) and the Canadian Industrial Energy End-use Data and Analysis Centre (CIEEDAC).

The full Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN). will be released at the end of May.

Some key points are:
Required: Sustainability Assessment Tools for renewable energy

The report also discusses the need for designing sustainability frameworks to ensure that RE project maximize benefits in the social, economic and environmental area. Monitoring, proper design and implementation are needed to ensure that RE is sustainable. Examples include:
Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


This showcase will include exhibits from sectors identified in Ontario’s Innovation Agenda such as Cleantech, Advanced Health, Digital Media and Information Communications and Advanced Materials and Manufacturing. New this year will be a zone devoted to the water sector. Discovery 2011 will also welcome the delegates of Ontario’s Global Water Leadership Summit at Discovery’s opening luncheon on May 18th. This event also serves as the closing luncheon for the Summit and OCE anticipates delegates in attendance from around the world. Premier Dalton McGuinty along with a number of key stakeholders important to the water sector will be joining OCE for the luncheon and Discovery. The Discovery show-floor will open following the luncheon and delegates including Ontario Global Water Leadership Summit participants will then have the opportunity to tour the Discovery show-floor starting with the Water Technologies Zone.

To register,


A report released March 2010 by the arm's-length federal agency Sustainable Development Technology Canada provides background on clean technology in Canada. About 400 companies in Canada are said to be part of a cleantech industry involved in commercialization of both services and products. Of these 300 already have commercialized products and services. Companies are on average 15 years old and even many of the younger ones are more than 10 years old.

The report includes company profiles of 135 Canadian clean technology companies, case studies of five companies with high growth and an analysis of the factors contributing to industry growth and global competition.

While Canadian companies tend to be good at research and development in creating technically successful projects, they are less successful in commercializing the technology.

The goal of SDTC is 20 Canadian clean technology companies with $100 million revenue by 2020. The focus is commercialization in the global markets. Examples of emerging companies with global investment are Day4 Energy (power generation), Westport Innovation (compressed natural gas engine manufacturer) and CO2 Solutions (carbon capture and sequestration).

Some of the observations of the report are:
The report rates the cleantech industry in various areas. Examples are:
Overall, the industry gets a B - due to certain strengths but also there is a need of improvement in the business environment for investment, management of individual companies and government policies.

One of the barriers identified in the surveys and interviews is "Simply put, Canadians are averse to buying from Canada.... Canadian procurers do not readily buy from small, globally competitive Canadian clean technology companies; this despite the fact that global producers readily do." One of the recommendations is that government and the private sector should buy directly from the technology companies rather than from system integrators. This may take new capability development by purchasers.

Another barrier is undercapitalization of the clean technology industry in Canada. Even with revised tax policies, new forms of financing should be developed. For example, provincial and federal government as well as pension funds could increase their investments in venture capital. The current venture capital system leads to so much of the share of the income paid out to investors that entrepreneurs choose to develop their companies more slowly which in some cases leads to the sale of the company often preventing its continued growth. Alternative financing vehicles such as flow through shares and debt products for technology companies could help match the demand of growth capital with supply.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


Designing and investing in cleantech requires analysis of the dimensions on which the technology is actually clean (green) and where harm may arise. Whether it is cloth or greener disposable diapers, nuclear energy, renewable energy sources such as biofuels and wind power, controversy swirls about whether the green claims adequately balance the actual or potential negative effects. For example, LEED-certified buildings, if not properly operated and maintained, may be susceptible to mould and some critics say the certification focuses too much on resource conservation rather than other aspects such as indoor air quality.

Batteries for the Future

The choice of batteries for plug-in or hybrid electric vehicles may be key to the extent by which these vehicles reduce environmental impact, according to researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology

According to a Powerpoint presentation by the authors, Norway was a first adopter of Electric Vehicles for reasons which include:
Batteries are only one aspect of the Life Cycle Assessment of a vehicle. All vehicles need wheels & tires and a basic frame. EVs unlike hybrids don't need an internal combustion engine or a fuel tank and delivery system, For this article, the LCA reviews raw material extraction and manufacturing which leads to the vehicle component production and final assembly. Other parts of the LCA include the fuel/electricity supply chains as well as additional or avoided infrastructure e.g. EVs need additional generation and transmission capacity. The use phase includes driving and charging patterns as well as maintenance and part replacement. At the end-of-life of the vehicle, the LCA considers disassembly/treatment, waste disposal, and material recovery/reuse.

Three types of batteries used for plug-in hybrids and full battery electric vehicles EVs were analyzed: nickel metal hydride (NiMH), nickel cobalt manganese lithium-ion (NCM), and iron phosphate lithium-ion (LFP) batteries.

The NiMH batteries had the highest environmental impact, with NCM and then LFP lower.

Some of the reasons for differing environmental impacts were:
In turn, the batteries affected the environmental impacts of the vehicles. Some of the conclusions were:
GL always used to wonder at the terminology ZEVs Zero Emission Vehicles, a term used especially in California where regulators were promoting ZEVs to deal with urban air pollution. Of course, the pollution was never zero as this article indicates: just because the vehicle itself doesn't emit pollutants directly from the tailpipe, there are emissions elsewhere e.g. during mining, manufacture, recycling, waste disposal and so on.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


This is a fairly short book - 195 pages but few words on a page - that is intended as a kind of primer to the carbon footprints of many common products and services. The objective is great but the execution is somewhat unsatisfying, partly because so much of the measurement of carbon footprint is specific to the producing location and production system and partly because carbon footprint is much more complex than this book suggests. On the positive side, the book does explain that carbon footprint is specific to the producing location and production system and is quite complicated. However, Gallon Letter worries that this book runs the risk of leaving the everyday consumer even more confused about carbon footprints than they were before they read it.

To illustrate with examples, suppose you are trying to decide whether bread or potatoes are a more climate-friendly choice as an accompaniment to your meal This book tells you that a kilogram of potatoes can have a carbon footprint ranging from 620 grams CO2e to 1170 grams CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent is the generally recognized measure of greenhouse gas emissions), depending on whether you cook the potatoes gently with the lid on or vigorously with the lid off. There is no variation given for alternate growing locations or production systems, e.g potatoes grown locally with more manual labour and little use of fossil-based chemicals. Then we turn to the bread section where we are told that an 800g loaf has a carbon footprint of 1000g CO2e. So an 800g loaf of bread is somewhere between the best and the worst of a kilogram of potatoes. The book tells us nothing about the range of possibilities for a loaf of bread e.g. whether the economies of scale of big bakeries offset the carbon emissions of commerical packaging, transport, and sales compared to that bread machine baking one bread at a time at home. How Bad Are Bananas? gives you quite a lot of information but unfortunately does not help you make quick decisions on lowering your carbon footprint by choosing more climate friendly products. It may be fun but life often ends up rather complicated.

Some of the data is so poor that it is hardly worth printing. For example, the book claims that an apple picked from the garden has zero carbon footprint but 'average' apples are 550g CO2e per kilo; A banana grown in your own garden has zero CO2e but bananas from the other side of the world are 480 g CO2e per kilo, and an orange grown in your own garden has zero CO2e but oranges shipped 2000 miles by boat and 500 miles by truck (yes, this book mixes imperial and metric units in exactly the same way as Canadian supermarkets) have a carbon footprint of 500 g CO2e per kilo. So which should you prefer if you are an ardent climate environmentalist? The answer is as elusive as your home grown bananas and oranges in any Canadian garden!

As the above example from the book may have suggested, this is a British book that appears to have been adapted for the North American market. The adaptation, however, sometimes leaves quite a bit to be desired. For example, a heart bypass operation is said to have a carbon footprint of 1.1 tons CO2e because it costs the UK National Health Service £6,324 (about $10,000 CDN). First, using medical fees as an indicator of carbon footprint suggests that the UK National Health Service somehow sets its fees in a way that recognizes carbon footprint, an absurd scenario, and second it does nothing to help us understand the carbon footprint of a coronary artery bypass in Ontario where the cost is likely over $20,000 CDN.

Despite our concern that carbon footprinting and making better purchase decisions is not nearly as quick and easy as the title or approach of this book suggests, we do believe that this book could be quite helpful to those who wish to gain some general knowledge of how carbon footprints are measured and how imprecise they can be when you try to apply them generically rather than specifically. For example, one section looks at a trip for one person from New York City to Niagara Falls and back. The book claims that a seat on a bus would be 66kg CO2e, train would be 120kg, a small car would be 330 kg, a plane would be 500kg, and a large car would be 1100kg. The author claims that as soon as there are more people on the trip the car becomes much more carbon efficient on a per person basis. However, he fails to point out that this argument does not work if the train, bus or even the plane is running anyway with empty seats!

Berners-Lee, Mike. How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything. Greystone Books. D&M Publishers Inc. 2011.


While the title of a 2009 book Time to Eat the Dog? may be catchy, the contents are rather dense with lots of number charts and references. The reader also has to make some adjustments in thinking because the authors often use data from Australia/New Zealand which may not be as applicable in other countries. It is not the type of book most people would read from cover to cover but by its use of a type of lifecycle description of daily activities converting energy use to an area of land to measure a footprint, the authors provide insight into the environmental impacts of consumption. One of the quibbles GL has with many recent green consumer books is that there is an inherent promotion of buying products, granted products with green features but still purchasing products is the focus. It is nice to read a book which asks the reader to consider avoiding products in the first place and explaining why in some detail. Behaviour is seen as important or in some cases even more important than the choice of products.

When considering products, readers are encouraged to think about key aspects of the product:
The authors try to extend the household's use to the broader implications including industry and municipal operations. One example on food waste disposal follows. Greener buildings reduce operating energy but new buildings contain high embedded energy if the building materials are newly made. Refurbishing older homes, with insulation for example, may only reduce the operating energy by 50% but saves emissions due to reuse of the old materials. If new homes begin to have zero operating energy or even to generate energy, there may come a time when demolishing existing homes may be better. A "green" house which requires regular maintenance in the form of painting and replacing internal finishes may over 50 years lose some of its environmental shine  when compared to  a regular home requiring little or no such maintenance over five decades.

Food Waste Disposal

Meat and other animal-byproducts can smell and attract animals such as rats. Putting all food waste into a home compost bin isn't recommended for that reason but a worm bin for composting can deal with meat, fish and dairy food waste as long as the waste is well-covered. Yard waste is best dealt with in normal aerobic compost bins. The authors say that the best option is recycling the waste as close to the source as possible to avoid contamination. For households not able to compost at home, three other options are:
A UK study shows landfilling food waste is 743 kg CO2 equivalent/tonne while special collection for composting is -14 kg CO2 eq/tonne. A study funded by manufacturers of in-sink waste disposal where the sewage plant makes biogas and uses sludge for fertilizer indicated a -168 kg CO2 eq/tonne implying that garburators are good for organic waste disposal, However, few sewage plants make biogas and use sludge for fertilizer.

Other impacts of waste collection and disposal to the landfill include activities such as extraction and material to make the landfill site and access to it like a road to the landfill site, manufacturing replacement rubber tires for the hauling trucks, emission by the trucks, and the methane emissions from the landfill. Similar discussion for the other two methods result in figures for embodied energy (e.g. energy used to make materials, equipment and infrastructure) as well as operational energy. Energy needs of various methods for disposing of food waste over 10 years are:
The conclusion is that whether the landfill/composting facilities/trucks are greener may be less important than the need to "reduce our reliance on large infrastructure and highly centralized systems...Where things can be done at home, they probably should be."

Footprint of Sustainable Living

The authors provide thought-provoking comments and conclude that only some of the choices relate to the product/technology itself. Greener products and technologies can help, but most important is reducing levels of consumption. The book claims that the ecological footprint of sustainable living is:

GL suspects that if you can read this book all the way through, you already know a lot about ecological footprinting and lifecycle analysis. While research-level lifecycle analysis requires more care about setting boundaries and ensuring a consistent measuring of key environmental impacts, this guide is closer to back-of-the-envelope estimate but provides the data for the great job the authors do of challenging common perceptions.. We think this book is a treasured find to which we will be returning to read parts again for some years. The authors have done a good job in their goal '"to tease out what it means, in terms of sustainability to do the everyday things that we all do: living in a home, preparing meals, buying food and clothing, commuting to work, taking part in sports, and so on. It then presents a range of alternatives and relative impacts so that we can see if there are any easy answers in terms of the choices we might make, or only difficult one. Only with some knowledge is it possible to start assembling a picture of what a future sustainable world might be like for each country and for each different part of the world." We'll leave you to read the book to find out the answer to the question held in the title.

Robert and Brenda Vale are research fellows at the School of Architecture at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. They are the authors of The Autonomous House, Green Architecture and The New Autonomous House, also published by Thames & Hudson. In 1994 they won the United Nations Global 500 Award for Environmental Achievement.

Vale, Robert and Brenda. Time to Eat the Dog? The real guide to sustainable living. Thames & Hudson Ltd, London, UK: 2009. ISBN 978-0-500-28790-3 [also available on Amazon]


Canada hosted the annual meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank in Calgary in March 2011. The IDB says of its role "We support efforts by Latin America and Caribbean countries to reduce poverty and inequality. We aim to bring about development in a sustainable climate-friendly way."

The bank provides loans as well as grants, technical assistance and research. Canada has been one of the 22 non-borrowing member countries of the IDB since 1972, providing 4% of its ordinary capital as well as making temporary and extraordinary contributions such as during the recession and the Haiti crisis. Canada also contribute to the IDB's Multilateral Investment Fund which promotes microfinancing in Latin America and the Caribbean. Twenty-six of the 48 member countries are borrowing members with a majority ownership of the IDB.

The private sector was involved in the meeting. Prior to the IDB meeting, there was a private sector event organized by various partners including The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Export Development Canada. As well as a seminar on how to do business with the Bank, individual matchmaking sessions with potential business partners and procuring officers were arranged. One of the attendees, Jim Ireland from Regina, commented that it was great to have such an important meeting "held in our backyard" (if a distance of nearly 800 km can be considered close-by). The Bank also held a number of seminars while the Annual Meeting itself is open by invitation only.


IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno announced a plan to partner with intermediate cities in Latin America and the Caribbean wishing to develop sustainably. Support is offered to mid-sized fast-growing cities with a population of 100,000 to two million people seeking sustainable solutions in areas including transport, energy, waste, climate change and fiscal management. About 140 cities in Latin America and the Caribbean are growing at two to three times faster than the megacities in the region, a rate of growth which means they will double in  population in 20 years. More than three quarters of people in this region live in cities. “We all know what happened in Latin America when we combined rapid growth with poor planning, lack of financing for infrastructure, and little regard for environmental and climate issues,” Moreno said. “No one wants today’s emerging cities to become tomorrow’s crowded and unhealthy megacities . . . Making smarter use of local resources can help us tackle global problems like climate change, providing lessons that can be applied in emerging cities in other parts of the world.” Initially the IDB will partner with a small number of emerging cities to test instruments and tools before expanding the program. Consulting services and technical support will also be offered for analysis, problem solving, priority setting and design of projects. The Bank has already spent billions in city-related projects such as Bus Rapid Transit, energy efficiency, water supply, poor neighbourhood restoration, and climate change adaptation.

GL notes that our parent company was involved with Industry Canada's Sustainable Cities Initiative which set similar goals but which came to an end without renewal in 2006.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


Bill HB2328 in the Legislature of the State of Oregon will, if passed, requires owners of electric cars and plug-in hybrids to pay a "road usage charge" of 0.85 cents per mile effective July 1, 2015 and 1.56 cents per mile effective July 1, 2018. Plug-in hybrids would get a rebate of state taxes paid on the gasoline they use.

According to a blogger who seems to have done his homework, this tax rate is equivalent to that which a big gas guzzling car pays to the State of Oregon through gasoline taxes. The blogger's analysis finds that the tax rate is equivalent to a vehicle which gets 21 miles per gallon (roughly 11 litres per 100km - approximately the highway mileage of a GMC Yukon with a 5.3 litre 8 cylinder motor).

Gallon Letter wonders how long before Canadian governments decide to impose a "road usage charge" for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles that do not pay gas taxes because they don't use gasoline (or use less gasoline in the case of plug-in hybrids). We hope this article has not given them any ideas!

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