Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment
Fisherville, Ontario, Canada
Tel. 416 410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231
Vol. 13, No. 8, October 3, 2008
Honoured Reader Edition


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Welcome to the first of our exclusive “current affairs” issues, responding to our readers’ expressed desire for more but shorter issues of Gallon Environment Letter (GL). Rather than stating that there is no feature topic in this issue - features focussing on specific topics will still appear in alternate issues - we would prefer to think that every article is a feature. As always we welcome your feedback.

If you are wondering what has happened to the big issues and why governments are focussing on the smaller issues, take a look at our editorial. GL suggests that Canada’s environmental NGOs are at least part of the problem. Drs. Robert Page and Mark Jaccard recently discussed climate change strategies on CBC Radio’s excellent and popular Quirks and Quarks program. It was one of the best such discussions GL has heard in the media for a long time. We provide a brief summary and tell you where you can find the complete radio program.

The broadcast media has been covering climate change and the environment with greater intensity recently - not only the above mentioned Quirks and Quarks show but also a morning radio show about the “tar sands”, and a Colbert Report segment with Bob Lutz of General Motors, a company which apparently still falls into the camp of climate change denyers. We have received and share with you a letter from the OECD on our coverage of their Environmental Performance of Agriculture report. Our Guest Column this issue is very relevant to the current debate about the economy: it is entitled Slow Money, Manure and Prudence and it is from Woody Tasch, Chairman and President of Slow Money and is reprinted from Green Money Journal. Our “GL Takes a Flyer” feature looks at another absurd environmental claim, we update our past coverage of an environmental fable for children, and we draw to your attention that not only is Canada’s reputation on Kyoto Protocol leadership highly tarnished but now we are even at risk of losing our reputation as leading hewers of wood.

Our next issue, in just a few days, will be our Canadian Election Summary. We will report on the green issues, the platforms, and our expectations as to how these will affect the business of the environment for at least the next two or three years.


In response to a political environment in which progress is challenging, many in Canada’s environmental movement seem to have adopted a strategy of trying to execute quick hits on perceived bads. Unfortunately this strategy will most likely delay progress on the real issues because it allows governments to present themselves as making environmental progress while actually ignoring the real issues.

Among the bads targeted this year are such things as Bisphenol A, cosmetic use of pesticides, bottled water, and industrial polluters. If all were banned in Canada, as many environmental groups have argued, if the governments used proposed approaches, the planet would arguably be in a worse mess than it is today. Certainly none of the most serious environmental issues would be significantly improved.
Following a massive campaign, Canada’s federal government was persuaded to consult on a proposed ban of Bisphenol A from baby bottles for children up to 18 months.* The ban does not include anything else, so Bisphenol A will still be found in many types of plastic goods. Baby bottles and other packages going to developing countries, indeed to all other countries, will still contain Bisphenol A. One might even want to make a case that banning Bisphenol A in Canada while doing nothing about it at the international level is a form of environmental racism. More importantly, Bisphenol A is one of a large number of endocrine disrupters not to mention suspected carcinogens that are in use in commercial products all over the world. In the grand scheme of things, Canada’s ban on Bisphenol A from baby bottles is barely a blip on the global problem of toxic chemicals and BPA is one of the least important of the chemicals that should be of government concern. However, it was an easy hit and gave some Canadian environmental groups the opportunity to pat themselves on the back and claim to be doing something useful while rewarding the government even when the usefulness of the effort is trivial.

The cosmetic use of pesticides issue provides an example of how over-enthusiasm can produce negative results. In the province of Ontario local and provincial groups were making good progress in persuading municipalities to ban cosmetic use of pesticides on residential properties. So far so good, but the issue attracted such a high level of interest that, in the last provincial election, the Liberal party made the promise to extend the ban to the entire province. The Bill has passed; it is much weaker than the bylaws that municipalities had been steadily implementing, and it disables existing bylaws and prohibits municipalities from passing their own bylaws in future. The biggest problem with the provincial legislation is that it allows cosmetic use of pesticides in the event of an “infestation” of insects or disease. Most homeowners will claim that they experience an “infestation” of cinch bugs in their lawn or ants or caterpillars in their garden every year. Hence a meaningless law.**

Bottled water has become a significant issue for a wide range of alleged environmental offences, from depletion of Canada’s water supplies to production of excessive amounts of garbage. Some municipal officials have even expressed the absurd view that sale of bottled water is reducing municipal revenues from sale of tap water. The big problem is that no one has studied the effects of a bottled water ban.*** GL’s expectation is that banning the sale of bottled water will simply increase the sales of flavoured waters, soft drinks, coffee, and other packaged beverages, all of which have an environmental footprint significantly greater than that of bottled water and are much less healthy in terms of calories and sugar than water. People in communities that are experiencing boil water orders, currently several hundred across Canada use bottled water for good reason. Using bottled water has a significantly lower environmental footprint than boiling water to make it safe. A positive strategy to make safe drinking water available everywhere across Canada, in homes, workplaces, and commercial establishments, would do more for public health than any ban of bottled water.

In the current federal election campaign the Conservative Party has promised to toughen penalties on industrial environmental offences. We’ll be reviewing election campaign promises of all parties in more detail in the next issue of GL, but suffice to say for now that the promise has been structured in such a way that it will have virtually no effect, just as similar increases in penalties by provincial governments have had virtually no effect.

Our major environmental challenges need strategies and programs, not quick hits that allow governments to appear green while actually achieving very little.

The J. W. McConnell Family Foundation has recognized the weakness of Canada’s environmental movement. In a 2005 paper prepared for the Foundation Jerry DeMarco, formerly with Sierra Legal Defence Fund, stated "The word movement should connote some sort of planning or arrangement, as it would in music. I believe that the Canadian environmental movement is a long way from being a coordinated entity. It is more a medley than a movement. National environmental leaders seem to rarely convene for movement level strategizing and action planning outside of issue-specific coalitions. We seem comfortable acting within mission boxes despite our holistic rhetoric around sustainability and the ecosystem approach."

In a review of the effectiveness of the McConnell initiative, Betty Plewes, former CEO, Canadian Council for International Cooperation, stated:
    "All the organizations felt that this three year focus on capacity building helped them take a major step forward in their organizational development and for most the timing of the initiative helped them take the organization to a new level. For some it helped sharpen their strategic vision, for others it improved efficiency and staff morale.
    It is less clear what the impact has been beyond individual organizations. There was an expectation that there would be more sharing and collaboration between annual meetings and between organizations. It is not entirely clear why this did not happen, apart from some very useful work on human resource systems. One observation was that the organizations in the program although all environmental organizations were very different in focus, style and the issues they were working on."
Plewes review concludes "The impact on the broader environmental sector will become evident over the longer term as [the McConnell] Foundation and others build on the learnings of this program". GL hopes that this optimism will yet be realized and that more environmental ngos will spend their time on strategy and policy rather than on quick hits that at best provide little environmental benefit and at worst actually divert attention from the real issues.

Colin Isaacs

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


CBC's Quirks and Quarks Bob McDonald hosted a show on carbon emissions and pricing that far exceeded the quality of debate among our political leaders. Matt Bramley of the Pembina Institute spoke of the numbers of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions in The Carbon Quiz. Two guests spoke on carbon pricing: Bob Page, TransAlta Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainability at the University of Calgary's Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy and Dr. Mark Jaccard, Professor at the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University. These three and Bob McDonald did a great job of summarizing the importance of taking seriously the threat of global warming. Although Canadians look on the Green Shift about as favourably as they would a bottle of poison, GL thinks the Q&Q show did a great job of conveying the message that carbon pricing is here to stay and the $40 per tonne proposed in the Green Shift will have to rise to over $200 in the not so distant future. Whether a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax matters little except that a tax is less costly to implement. Over time, a combination of both are likely. The show is posted online for those who missed it.

CBC Radio. The Quirks and Quarks Carbon Quiz and Carbon Pricing. Quirks & Quarks. September 27, 2008


The former President of Shell Canada, David Collyer, is the new President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and was interviewed by Anna Maria Tremonti, host of CBC Radio One's The Current, on October 1. While he promoted the industry's environmental actions, he didn't focus as much on what GL usually deplores - industry spokespersons who say that was then, this is now: we used to have problems as an industry but that is all in the past. He did say that the oil sand industry's environmental efforts stand up well in regard to water use as more water is being recycled and reduced energy use with less CO2 emissions. He didn't answer some questions at all such as on the Green Shift because he said they were too political but as a broad principle supported the need for policy to stimulate action to reduce CO2 emissions: technology, innovation, and equitable treatment across sectors with shared responsibility for reducing CO2 are preferred.

When Tremonti asked him how the industry was affected by California's aim to curb imports of oil sands, he said that oil sands production emitted only 10-15% more CO2 than conventional oil. Canada supplies 12% of the US oil and the industry wants to retain those markets. The current financial crisis is not good news for the industry. Tremonti said he was quoted as saying economic concerns overshadow environmental concerns. He said he welcomed the opportunity to correct the misperception: both economic and environmental concerns are important.

There is no longer a question about whether climate change is real. Growing the business means that more money can be applied to energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage. The Alberta government is funding $2 billion for the first round of demonstration projects on carbon capture and storage. Industry will pay its share but it is not unusual in early stages of technology development for government to provide support. As GL mentioned before, the industry doesn't like the term "tar sands": he corrected Tremonti when she used the term "tar sands" suggesting "oil sands" instead.

The oil sands produce 5% of the total emissions in Canada and Canada produces 2% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions so the oil sands represent a very small portion of world emissions. Tremonti pointed out the oil sands are projected to produce 41-47% of Canada's increase in GHG emissions. He said that emission intensity is only slightly higher than conventional oil and the industry is working towards reduced emissions. Energy demand is projected to increase and hydrocarbons will continue to be part of the mix for the next 50 years. The oil sands contain a potential for 173 billion barrels of oil to fill that demand.

Currently about 470 sq. kilometres have been disturbed out of a potential of 3,500 sq km. Companies are rehabilitating the areas in consultation with the First Nations as they go.

He suggested that it has only been the last 12-18 months that the industry has become "more progressive" about environmental issues.

He didn't accept that the industry was responsible for any significant seepage of tailings chemicals into fresh water to cause cancer and other health effects such as reported in Fort Chipewyan by Dr. Charles O'Connor.

If Collyer is not just talk, it is a good sign that the oil/tar sands companies might move faster and further towards better environmental protection.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


What a contrast to David Collyer (see above) was Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman Product Development at General Motors, who appeared on the comedy show The Colbert Report (there seems to be more reality in comedy these days) and couldn't keep his mouth shut about his climate sceptic views while promoting the new GM 2011 Volt. He said 32,000 scientists agree with him as he doesn't "believe in the CO2 theory" but that global warming was occuring but is due to sunspots*. [GL interprets this to mean natural causes nothing to do with humans]. The blogosphere had much to say with some of the responses said that it didn't matter what he said, it was the car that counts while some have said it shows how GM management continues to stand in the way of action against global warming.

GM Fastlane Blog

In a GM blog. Lutz expressed his view that his interview with Stephen Colbert went well but seemed to apologize for the pauses: he said he paused to "discard the truly dangerous answers!". He was pleased to talk about the Volt: 40-mile electric range, great overall range, advanced lithium-ion battery technology and so on. Those facts are now known to the huge Colbert Nation," The blog attracted comments which GL found hilarious for the contrast between the outside-GM and inside-GM. The regular blogosphere had many slaps while the GM one was mostly "Great interview!" and "I'm a great fan of yours" but there were a few responses that criticized his position on climate change, ""You are doing good with the Chevy Volt - However, your claims on global warming are either ignorant or deceitful.", "You look like a fool when you say scientists don’t agree on the cause of global warming." and ""I hope you understand that Colbert made you look like an idiot and totally dominated you in the hot seat. Global warming doesn’t exist?? How much did you post in losses CYTD [Calendar Year to Date]?" One of the blog posting listed some of the actions GM had taken to reduce energy and CO2 such as solar panels on several factory roofs, the development of the Volt fueled by electric power and highly efficient, several hybrid vehicles on the market and in-the-works hydrogen fuel-celled vehicles. One employee commented that they were only allowed to comment on things GM had already made public and GM had not publically taken a position on global warming. GL suggests that when a key executive of the company explains his views opposed to the science that it would be easy for the public to understand that the company management shares that view.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


            Re: GL V13 N7 OECD Agriculture Report

Dear Editor,

Many thanks for reviewing the OECD report I prepared on the Environmental Performance of Agriculture in OECD Countries since 1990 in the 6th September edition of your newsletter.

You might like to draw to the attention of your readers that there is a dedicated website for this report at indicators where you can freely download the specific chapter on Canada (in English and French) and other sections of the report. In addition, the website contains an interactive database of agri-environmental indicators since 1990, both by country and/or environmental theme (e.g. biodiversity).

In addition the website contains related OECD reports, such as the Proceedings of the OECD Expert Meeting held in Ottawa Canada on Soil Organic Carbon and Agriculture.
If you or your readers need any further information please do not hesitate to contact me.
Kind regards,
Kevin Parris, Policies and Environment Division, Trade and Agriculture Directorate, OECD,
2 Rue Andre-Pascal, 75775 Paris CEDEX 16, France
Kevin.Parris[[ Tel: +33 (0) 1 45 24 95 68    [Replace [[ with you know what]


Wayne Richardson Retiring: Wayne Richardson will be known to many in the Canadian environment sector as he led the federal TEAM climate change technology demonstration program for the last ten years. The program supported 140 Canadian clean energy and environmental technology projects in 16 countries with an investment of CAD$1.3 billion. He writes with pride of the work done on these project, "Those of you who have worked directly on these project know what a great effort it requires to actually commercialize new technology. I have also been very proud of the contribution and influence that our modest TEAM GHG measurement and reporting (SMART) work has made on the ISO and the global carbon measurement and reporting community. If you have not already done so, I urge you to visit the TEAM web site at

By Woody Tasch

We have, of late, begun to get religion about carbon in the atmosphere. We have begun to pour venture capital into clean tech, searching for ways to maintain our lifestyles and grow the economy, while dramatically reducing our ecological footprint. This vision of ecological footprint is, in a great many respects, a mechanical one, asking only: How can we design new machines that work more cleanly?

No one, it seems, is asking a corollary question: If we cannot create wealth without degrading soil fertility and draining the vitality out of local economies, how can we, no matter how clean our machines, hope to thrive, or, even, survive?

Last August, at the 25th Anniversary Gala for the Rocky Mountain Institute, eminent panellists tried to answer yet other questions, posed by moderator Thomas Friedman: "If this is a win-win-win, if these new technologies and design solutions are so elegant and so profitable and so clean, what is holding them back? Where is the resistance to these innovations coming from?" To my surprise, since this was not a finance conference, the group discussion zeroed in on CEO compensation, short-sighted financial incentives and the structure of capital markets.

Inventor Dean Kamen opined from the dais: Venture capitalists have great enthusiasm but short attention spans. We are stuck in a 19th century way of thinking that leads to large scale, centralized production and power generation. We don't have the mindset to really invest for the long-term in small-scale solutions that would improve life for billions of people.

Such questions and observations lead to the premise for a new kind of financial intermediation, going by the improbable name of slow money.

That premise is this. The problems we face with respect to soil fertility, biodiversity, food quality and local economies are not primarily problems of technology. They are problems of finance. In a financial system organized to optimize the efficient use of capital, we should not be surprised to end up with cheap food, millions of acres of GMO corn, billions of food miles, dying Main Streets, a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and obesity epidemics side by side with persistent hunger.

Speed is a big part of the problem. We are harvesting from the soil in decades fertility that was created over millennia. We are extracting generations-worth of economic and cultural vitality from our communities. We are acting as if the biological and the agrarian can be indefinitely subjugated to the industrial and the urban without significant consequence. We are, as the colloquial saying puts it so eloquently, beginning to believe our own bullshit.

Which reminds me of a story...About 15 years ago, I was turning a horse stall into my office. My first project was to shovel out the dried horse manure and shovel in sand, in advance of the construction of a wooden floor. One day, reflecting on the transition from equine to intellectual, I realized, "How appropriate: from horseshit to bullshit."

No consideration of the disconnect between capital markets and the land is complete without at least one reference to manure.
If slow money is going to be effective, it is going to be in part due to inspiration derived from the celebratory, lifeaffirming, pleasure inducing humanism of Slow Food.

Slow Food began as a protest against McDonald’s, but it quickly evolved from a single act of protest into an international NGO, on the strength of a family of pro-biodiversity, pro-small farmer initiatives dedicated to restoring and preserving quality of life. Similarly, slow money seeks to support the creative power of entrepreneurship to build new commercial relationships that enhance quality of life for farmers, food consumers and their communities. In a world of monoculture and special interests, the emergence of for-profit social entrepreneurs, whose companies integrate private enterprise and public benefit, is particularly intriguing, and worthy of support.

Just as is the case with Slow Food, slow money needs an approach that dares to be cultural, agricultural, economic, historical and biological. We will need to fight against over-specialization, putting the jargon of the specialist, the technician, the quant in its place. We will need to define new benchmarks, being unafraid to assert the importance of qualitative distinctions.
"Money only knows one speed," the scion of one of America's wealthiest families once said during a public discussion. "Money only goes fast, faster, fastest. Try to slow it down, and you'll just end up with sloppy investing."

To which I say: If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different outcome, then it is insane to think that by continuing to create wealth via an extractive system, so that we will have more money to give away, we will be able to adequately address the urgency of the current global moment. Both unfettered fast money, and its twin, philanthropy, which has an odd non-speed all its own, create and depend upon broken social relationships. We must seek to build an economy in which healthy relationships remain integral to the wealth creation process.

Prudence-as in the Prudent Man-can no longer be defined completely by tens of billions of dollars of fast money pouring into high-tech venture deals. Such prudence is incomplete.

We must find new ways to steer capital to tens of thousands of independent enterprises that promote the health and diversity of communities and bioregions. For every $1 billion that zooms around the planet-or is it cyberspace?-looking for the highest return and lowest risk, and supporting globalization, consumerism and unlimited economic growth, we must invest $10 million or $100 million in enterprises that support what is going by many names:
virtuous globalization, localization, local living economies, natural capitalism, restorative economics.

Reconnaissance with respect to this new prudence comes from author Michael Pollan in a recent New York Times Magazine article:
The story of Colony Collapse Disorder and the story of drug-resistant staph are also the same story: Both are parables about the precariousness of monocultures. Whenever we try to rearrange natural systems along the lines of a machine or a factory, whether by raising too many pigs in one place or too many almond trees, whatever we may gain in industrial efficiency, we sacrifice in biological resilience. The question is not whether systems this brittle will break down, but when and how, and whether when they do, we'll be prepared to treat the whole idea of sustainability as something more than a nice word.

Pollan reminds us that the particular challenges that face us in this or that sector of food or energy or health actually have much deeper roots, reaching all the way to an historic struggle between the industrial and the biological. His reference to parable is telling. As easily, he could have referred to myth.

We are quick to assume that no battle between myths, or no myth at all, could hold sway over the modern mind. Yet could it be called anything other than myth, the story that is powerful enough to have us believing that unlimited economic growth is not only possible but desirable, despite the rapidly accumulating data to the contrary? What else but a myth could be powerful enough to convince us that what made sense as an economic organizing principle in a 1 billion person planet or a $1 trillion dollar global economy would still be appropriate in a 6.4 billion person planet and a $24 trillion dollar global economy? What else but a myth could be powerful enough to convince us that there is no such thing as a company that is too big, intermediation that is too complex or money that is too fast? What else but a myth could make the violence of the modern economy invisible to the modern investor?
I believe that social investing can best be understood, with its roots in Quakerism and anti-apartheid divestitures, as an expression of the ethos of non-violence in the context of fiduciary capitalism. Of necessity, this expression manifests itself in partial adaptations, pragmatic mutations and imperfect applications. Lots and lots of half-steps. After all, who can ignore how daunting it is to look at the Fortune 500 or the Russell 5000 and think: What would I invest in if I really wanted to do no harm?

Our success in moving beyond half-steps depends upon acknowledging, unabashedly, without scapegoating, without undue recrimination, and with a commitment to looking forward, the violence of the modern economy.

This is the violence of the modern economy: by prioritizing markets over households, community, place, land, it does violence to the relationships that underpin health and that give life sustaining meaning-family relationships, community relationships, relationships to particular places, relationships between consumers and producers and between investors and the enterprises in which they invest, relationships between companies and the places in which they do business, relationships between wonder and awe and the universe that gave us plutonium, lightyears, fertility, sentience, poetry, fugue. All of these relationships are attenuated, or, in the extreme, deracinated, by the modern global economy.

This is violence of the most fundamental kind. It is no accident that such an economy would find it easy to support, and to depend upon, the building of nuclear weapons, the waging of wars in distant lands, the selling of cigarettes, the flying of trillions of air miles, the commodification of leisure, urban and suburban sprawl, gated communities and favelas, toxics in the food and water, and kids who watch an average of four hours per day of TV, paying more attention to instant messaging than to people in the room.

In these first few decades of the 21st century, it is our "inescapable duty," to use Wendell Berry's words, to change not only our light bulbs, but our myths. And along with them, our concepts of entrepreneurship, investing and philanthropy, which will have to be amended, expanded, and, perhaps, even radically transformed, as part of a new vision of restorative economics.

Article by Woody Tasch, Chairman and President of Slow Money, which is currently holding Slow Money Institutes in several U.S. regions, in anticipation of launching a first Slow Money fund in 2009. He is also Chairman of Investors' Circle ( - See GL article below) and author of the forthcoming book "A Bee's-Eye View and Inquiry into the Nature of Slow Money," which is due out fall 2008 from Chelsea Green. Reprinted with permission. Green Money Journal. Summer 2008.


Kelsi Boyle of Investors' Circle based in San Francisco wrote, "Investors' Circle acts as an intermediary, connecting our nation-wide network of angel and institutional investors to early- or expansion-stage businesses that aim to address significant environmental or social issues. In particular, we are looking for companies or venture funds in the following industries: Energy & Environment, Food & Organics, Community & International Development, Education & Media, and Health & Wellness. Our investors seek companies with financing needs under $10 million that have the mission and potential to grow on a national or international scale. For more information on our targets and criteria, please visit for_entrepreneurs/our-criteria. Entrepreneurs that are accepted by Investors’ Circle are introduced to our group of investors through an online company database and monthly e-newsletter. Most importantly, accepted companies will be considered for a presentation opportunity at our next venture fair event. A total of $12 million was invested in roughly 1/3rd of the presenters at our last three venture fairs." The application deadline for the next Venture Fair located in Boston, November 10th-12th, was August 1st.
See for complete details.

See also Guest Column by Woody Tasch above.


The original article by Woody Tasch above was in Green Money Journal's Special 15th Anniversary Summer 2008 issue. Founder Cliff Feigenbaum is still the publisher and managing editor of this quarterly which received an Utne Independent Press Award in 2003.

Among recent articles in the magazine and online are topics such as:


Four years ago, one of the GL issues brought our readers a fable from Loon Laughter: Ecological Fables & Nature Tales by Paul Air, professor of Forest Conservation Policy at the University of Toronto (And Now for Something Completely Different GL V9 N5 March 4, 2004). This summer one of the fables became a one-act play for children. Beware the Falling Trees! Lorraine & The Great Moraine Adventure was written by Amy Henkel & Anthony Leo presented by Resurgence Theatre Company in cooperation with the Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation in ten outdoor performances in York Region ending August 15. Thirty more performances will be held in elementary schools in the Greater Toronto Area October 6-24.

The storyline provided by the press release is: "The Oak Ridges Moraine is one of Ontario's prominent landforms. So when Lorraine the deer discovers that her friend Winston plans to cut down all the trees on a section of the Moraine and build a giant disco, she has to take action. But what's the big deal about cutting down a bunch of trees? Lorraine and her friends find out as mystic toads, militant salamanders and out-of-this-world dance numbers abound on their journey to save the Moraine. Recommended for young audiences."

Resurgence Theatre 905-953-2838


GL thinks the term “greenwash” is easy to sling around but lacks precision and is often unfair by isolating environmental labelling from all the other labels which the consumer deals with. What might help is to explain more how labelling is being used in the marketplace and how these relate to what Canada’s Competition Bureau has set out in its environmental labelling guidance. Of course, marketing ingenuity being what it is and environmental issues moving along too, the old labels which were originally used in the 1990s are not as much used as they were even though the updated guide still covers mostly these. So this series explores some of the labels on products as well as in media such as flyers, television and magazine ads as well as blogs and other communications which may not so readily be identified as marketing.

Seen on several different cloth bags: "100% reusable"

GL comment: The use of 100% for non-numbers is becoming very common and is mathematically meaningless although GL suspects many people would understand it to be a wordplay meaning “all of it”. One of the bags has 100% Gorgeous as another label. Still just because it is nonsense doesn't mean that the regulator might not take it seriously. GL wonders what 90% reusable or indeed 75% Gorgeous might mean. 

The bag with the reusable claim meets the CSA guide, "A product that claims to be reusable must have been designed specifically with the intent that it shall be reusable" and "The design of products that claim to be refillable and/or reusable must be such that they can be reused for their original purpose." and "facilities or products exist that allow the purchaser to reuse or refill the product or package." In theory, the term reusable is also supposed to have been "conceived and designed to accomplish with its life cycle a certain number of trips, rotations or uses for the same purpose for which it was conceived."

The guide doesn't specify how many trips so presumably even if the bag were reusable only one more time, that would meet the requirement of the claim of reusable. The bags we bought are made of cotton and aren’t in any danger of meeting only such a low standard as they are sturdy and would provide many reuses saving on a number of single use bags whether paper or plastic.

Whether the 100% reusable bags actually are an overall benefit compared to disposables is not so clear as it depends on factors not always readily assessable by the consumer and depending also on which factors one considers most environmentally/healthwise/socially relevant, for example the growing of cotton is a significant contributor to world use of pesticides and the light colour of one bag may require more washing using detergents, water and energy. Consumers tend to think reusable is always better and it often is if waste reduction is the highest priority but lifecycle assessment over the life of the product from raw material to final disposal sometimes concludes that disposable is just as good and sometimes even better if different priorities are chosen. During a severe water shortage, more garbage in landfill might be preferable to more washing.

A single attribute may make the reusable product less preferable: for example, thousands, probably millions, of reusable water bottles were trashed due to consumers being persuaded that bisphenol A used in polycarbonate, a hard durable plastic, was a hazard to their health and the environment. In this case, waste reduction was not the highest priority.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.

If the Governor has his way the State of Maine may soon overtake Canada as North America’s leader in hewing of wood.

In January, in his State of the State Address, Maine Governor Baldacci announced a "Wood-to-Energy Initiative" to bring Maine-made sources of heat to the homes and businesses of Maine. He immediately established a multistakeholder committee to explore what could be done. As a first step in this initiative, the Governor said he would pursue a transition to biofuels such as wood pellets and wood chips, identifying those state buildings where conversion to wood pellets, wind, or other renewable sources of energy can reduce costs by 30 to 50 percent. He pointed out that this not only saves money for Maine taxpayers, it generates the investment and business activity to grow Maine’s economy .

Last month the Task Force issued its final report. Among its findings:
The State of Maine has already teamed up with a local bank to provide homeowners with US made pellet stoves as replacements for fossil fuelled home heating systems.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.
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