Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment
Fisherville, Ontario, Canada
Tel. 416 410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231
Vol. 18, No. 1, October 31, 2013

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In this issue we catch up on a few recent environmental happenings that we hope will be of interest to our readers. Dave Nichol, well-known for his role in creating Loblaw’s President’s Choice products, recently passed away. We share our thoughts. Our editorial covers the topic of the water you leave on the bedpost overnight. Like most articles about water or garbage, it could be controversial! We invite your comments.

In this issue we skip our usual theme-based approach and try to catch up on a few recent environmental news topics, something which is very difficult but often quite interesting. Our articles include the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario's opinion on cuts to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources; FOE and Sierra Club's efforts to get more data on Keystone XL; Global Value Chains, where the report we review may help you to understand what these are and why they are important; tourism at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre; the Blue Planet Prize; a new role for Dr Andrew Benedek; controversy over Better Beef at A&W restaurants; an autobiography of Lester Brown, and budgeting for the climate. With this year's international climate change conference coming up (Warsaw, Poland, 11 to 22 November) we also summarize and add commentary on the key finding of the latest IPCC climate change report and look at Canada's GHG emission trends: actual and political!

There's more, which you will find as you scan through this issue. We hope you find it interesting and useful. If you find this issue interesting we recommend you check out our brief environment and business newsletter at . We also like to read your letters and will publish a selection of those which we think will interest our readers in subsequent issues of Gallon Environment Letter. We invite you to send your letters or comments on any environment and business topic by email to No explicit advertising please, though if you would like to send us your press releases we may choose to report on them.

Barring major developments in other areas, and we are not expecting much in the way of new policy from this year's international climate change conference later this month, our next issue will take an updated look at corporate social responsibility and business support for democratic institutions. We expect it will be a particularly interesting issue.


Dave Nichol, the person who made Loblaw President's Choice, President’s Choice GREEN, and No Name into powerful brands, died September 22, 2013 at the age of 73. He travelled the world to bring food products to Loblaw customers introducing private label products, healthier blue label foods, and even new pet foods and other household products. He made readers of his Insider’s Report, an expanded grocery store flyer, feel as if he personally wrote the advertising which encompassed both serious information and comedic storytelling. Many of the headlines about his death called him the "former Loblaw pitchman" but GallonLetter thought the article by Anne Kingston in Maclean's called "Loblaw marketing genius Dave Nichol dies at 73" and the subtitle "the man who brought balsamic vinegar to the supermarket" were most reflective of the simple but food-changing impact Nichol had. It isn't as if some of us weren't acquainted with at least many of the foods like peanut and chili flavouring but he brought them to everyday accessibility, for example with the Memories of Szechuan sauce. Anne Kingston wrote the book The Edible Man: Dave Nichol, President's Choice and the Making of Popular Taste, which won the 1994 National Business Book Award.

Nichol: Green Product Launch

One of the initiatives fewer media mention is the role of Dave Nichol in the launch of green products into Canadian supermarkets. Again, it isn't as if there weren't green products available but they were, as with some of the food products introduced in alternative or other outlets, not readily available to large number of Canadians.

In the June 1989 Insider's Report, an advertising flyer for the grocer Loblaw including Zehrs, the Supercentre and No Frills with the largest circulation of any food magazine in the world, Dave Nichol, President of Loblaw International Merchants, said that in travelling the world looking for new products in the last year, "I was astounded at the level of consumer interest in environmentally friendly products. For example, the best selling book in England last year was an environmental handbook ranking retailers and their products." After consulting with various executives of environmental groups in Canada, the company launched its green product program. Nichol wrote that "Some may accuse us of being 'environmental opportunists.' We see our role as providing products that people want...that's why we've created GREEN products when the overwhelming concern of Canadians is the environment... If GREEN products do nothing more than help raise awareness of the need to address environmental issues NOW, and give Canadians hope that SOMETHING CAN BE DONE, then in the end they will have made a positive contribution." The flyer explained why consumers should consider buying green e.g. why brown, non-chlorine bleached coffee filters are better than white.

Gallon Environment Letter's editor Colin Isaacs was then Executive Director of Pollution Probe which endorsed a few of the products as did some other environmental groups including Friends of the Earth. For example for diapers, Nichol wrote, "I asked Pollution Probe if there is anything we could do to produce an Environmentally Friendly diaper. "In the best of all worlds, everyone would use reusable cloth diapers." they said. I replied, "But cloth diapers aren't always convenient." "In that case, Pollution Probe conceded, "diapers made with non-chlorine, bleached fluff pulp are the next best thing!" Pollution Probe also endorsed a phosphorus-free dishwashing detergent: almost a quarter of a century later, removal of phosphorus from dishwashing detergents and other brand-name laundry detergents to protect surface waters is mandated. It turned out to be interesting times but the controversy about whether Pollution Probe or specifically Pollution Probe's executive director was "co-opted" by a big food company raised awareness of the green product launch. Sales in just one province, Ontario, in the first month after the launch were $5 million, double the projected amount. Eventually Pollution Probe, after Isaacs resigned, withdrew endorsement from the diapers but continued to endorse six other products. After leaving Pollution Probe, Isaacs, a chartered chemist, set up a company which continues to provide scientific and informational support on environmental issues to companies including Loblaw and government and other agencies and of course, after the death of its originator Gary Gallon, published the GallonLetter and more recently initiated GallonDaily.

The Loblaw initiative promoted by Dave Nichol was a big launch with many of the products. At the time, retailers didn't have a range of green products as many do now; Loblaw was the only retailer in North America with such a range of green products. While some products were available from manufacturers, many products had to be commissioned to be as functional as conventional products but with green attributes. Products had to be tested for working well as well as verified to meet the green label. Greenpeace challenged the Loblaw GREEN organic fertilizer also endorsed by Pollution Probe but Loblaw had spent $50,000 on independent tests to verify there were no toxic chemicals to a certain extent spiking Greenpeace's guns.

Kingston, Anne. Loblaw marking genius Dave Nichol dies at 73. Maclean's. September 26, 2013.

Loblaw. An open letter to Canadian consumers about President's Choice GREEN Products. Something Can be Done! Dave Nichol's Insider's Report. Vol. XVII June 1989. Print. and
Loblaw Companies Limited. Annual Report. 1989. Print.


A recent conversation turned to the topic of coffee. My conversationalist said that they did not like to use a single serve coffee maker at home because the water would sit in the tank from one day to the next and hence would become ‘stale’. It was the sort of environment-related conversation in which I frequently am a part: many people who would not pretend to be experts on building a high-rise tower or on fracking for oil consider themselves to be very knowledgeable on waste management, recycling, and water treatment. I will leave the discussion of that phenomenon for a future issue. I do not normally respond to folks who want to tell me all about some environmental topic but this concept of ‘stale’ drinking water caught my attention, perhaps because I too was brought up as a child with the idea that water that sits on the bedside table or kitchen counter for a few days should not be consumed because it will have gone ‘stale’.

The conversation led me to think about what I now know about the properties of water. Clean drinkable water doesn't go "stale". As most of us know, water is a very simple molecule composed of two hydrogen and one oxygen atom. It is extremely stable and does not break down except under extreme conditions, think very high temperatures usually with the presence of a catalyst or highly active reagent such as high temperature carbon or the passage of an electric current. On earth, and in the universe, water has been around for billions of years and it has never changed. The water that comes out of your tap is several billion years old.

When water is treated for drinking, some chemicals are added for the purpose of removing some of the contaminants that have found their way into water in the environment. None of these chemicals change the water itself, though they may add themselves to tap or bottled water in very low concentrations. But none of these chemicals, among them aluminum hydroxide, chlorine, and ozone, have the ability to go stale. They are all extremely stable. Purification of drinking water may also aerate the water to some extent, but air does not go stale and much of it will leave the water if the water is left standing at room temperature and pressure for a few hours.

If water is left standing either uncovered or with a loose cover, particulate matter (‘dirt’) and insects may fall into it but, unlike other beverages, it is not very attractive to insects because it contains no significant nutrition so water left standing in a container in the house will not attract very many bugs. Bacteria are unlikely to grow in standing drinking water, in the absence of animal or plant material, because there is virtually no nutrition to support the bacteria.

So what do we mean when we speak of drinking water going ‘stale’? First, aerated water seems to taste better than water from which the air, or oxygen, has evaporated. By shaking or vigorously stirring the water we can restore the dissolved oxygen. In any case, when water is heated for making coffee, the dissolved air will evaporate so it does not matter whether it has been left standing or not. Second, we may be concerned that the water has absorbed chemicals from the container in which it was left standing but the concept of ‘stale’ water would seem to have little to do with concern over the dissolving of container material in the water which seems a somewhat different issue; besides water is already stored in various types of material as water fills and stays in the pipes used to deliver water to the house and inside the house.  Finally, maybe it is just a concern that bugs or dirt may fall into standing water, causing it to become "stale". Somehow, from a scientific perspective, that does not seem to be a major concern, at least as long as someone has not put their lips to, or fingers in, the container of water.

So what is my conclusion? I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as ‘stale’ drinking water. Rotating water stored for long term such as for emergencies would be a good idea using the water for some other purpose and replacing it but for short term if I draw too much water from the tap I usually have a glass jug or jar which I fill and use the next time I need drinking water. A lid even a loose one helps to keep it clean. Pouring unused water down the drain because it is ‘stale’ is a waste of water. It is time to start conserving water whenever and wherever we can. Reducing the amount of unused drinking water we pour down the drain is one of many places to start. I will, today.

Colin Isaacs

Gallon Environment Letter knows from experience that articles about water and garbage are among those most likely to attract comments. We invite you to send your comments in the form of a Letter to the Editor to We will publish a selection of those received.


The "transformation" of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources while cutting up-front costs through service and oversight reduction will have "costly long-term impacts that jeopardize the welfare and sustainability of Ontario's natural resources," wrote Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO). The ECO is an officer of the Legislative Assembly. In his latest report he delivers a slap on the side of the head to the ministry, which has been somewhat similarly featured in ECO's annual reports. MNR rejects the "nightmare scenario" and said changes were needed "to deliver on core priorities, modernize our business, achieve operational and financial sustainability, and help the government balance the budget." "Core business lines" are described as "fish and wildlife, forestry, Crown land management, water, parks and protected areas, non-renewable resources and public safety."

The ‛nightmare scenario', due to amendments in the 2012 Budget and Ontario Bill 55, include:
  • broad permission to the minister to implement "an almost infinite range of additional and unanticipated changes"
  • little information from the ministry about either the breadth or effects of these changes some of which give no priority to protection and conservation of natural resources.
  • ability to redefine Crown land management and natural resource management so as to outsource to private interests which have no interest or capability to conserve and protect it. An example given is what has happened in Alberta through the new Alberta Energy Regulator. Residents in Northern Ontario could find that large tracts of Crown land are handed over to large multinational companies which could really transform the land and the natural resources.
  • dilution of key environmental legislation e.g. distancing MNR from forest management oversight and species at risk to such an extent that the law become "ineffectual and unable to meet its intended purpose."
  • cumulatively this could mean a deregulation due to changes in environmental laws and elimination of a number of programs of Crown land and natural resources which become unprotected.
Miller says, "If the public interest and the environment are not the priority, it begs the question, then, why and for whom is this transformation occurring?"

Provincial government slashes funding to CFWIP

Over the last few years, steady cuts to funding for MNR's Community Fisheries and Wildlife Involvement Program have led to criticism from groups involved in conservation. For example, last fall the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters put out a press release: "OFAH first sounded the alarm in 2006 when the province announced plans to cut funding for CFWIP in half, from $1 million to $500,000. Then Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay, clearly saw the benefit of continuing to fund this flagship environmental program and the decision was overturned. It would appear however, that the Liberal government never had any intention of funding the program over the longer term, preferring instead to put it on the back burner and wait for it to boil dry. This is an insult and a slap in the face to the tens of thousands of volunteers who strive to improve the province's environmental footprint," said OFAH Executive Director Angelo Lombardo. "Unfortunately, this is likely only the tip of the iceberg, given the Ministry's mandate to cut tens of millions from its budget over the next three years. For a government that claims to be concerned about the environment, turning its back on grassroots conservation work is hypocrisy at its best."

Here in Haldimand County, one of GallonLetter's associates was talking to Wade Dowling a volunteer/executive on the board of a small local conservation non-profit group called Habitat Haldimand which works with schools and businesses in forest and wetland conservation and education. The group grows locally collected tree seeds, lining them out in beds hosted by other organizations e.g. schools, residential seniors homes and golf courses and then annually offering the dug out trees as well as additional ones purchased from tree nurseries for a small fee to landowners with more than 2 hectares for forest restoration. They also work with local landowners and Ducks Unlimited to restore shallow lakes/ponds for migrating birds and host education workshops including making things like bluebird and wood duck boxes for which they need about $500 a year. Often enough the volunteers also supply gas, supplies and other contributions beside their free labour. Restoration is supposed to be a priority for MNR yet this must be an example of just one of many groups harnessing the efforts of local volunteers and landowners. This one has planted meadows and riparian edges with native plants, put up nesting boxes, offered from 10,000 to 15,000 trees for local planting each year for at least 15 years, restored local streams for trout fishing and maintained wetlands (e.g. fixing leaks in ponds) and now is facing the reality of having to shut down when they run out of their financial reserves because they are unable to access $5,000 annually from the CWIP grant. Some other funding sources such as Ontario Power Generation and Ontario Trillium Foundation are sometimes available but tend to be specific to projects rather than on-going work and of course, all fundraising takes time and effort when the group's interest is in getting conservation work done.

From GallonLetter's point of view, the cutting of the CWIP grant is directly opposed to the core priorities MNR says it has as these volunteer groups help to educate the public in ways which are indeed priceless while also leveraging a relatively small amount of money to achieve significant environmental goals, perhaps not all at once because of the small scale but over the years significant. Conservation work in Haldimand County which borders the shores of Lake Erie, is key to the health of the Great Lakes and for lack of relatively small amounts of money, the benefits could cease with indeed as the Environmental Commissioner states, long term negative environmental impacts.

Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Serving the Public: Annual Report 2012/2013. Toronto, Ontario: October 2013. and directly to the full ECO report

Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. Provincial government slashes funding to CFWIP: Funding for Community Fish and Wildlife Involvement Program cut in half. OFAH FILE: 842. September 20, 2012.

Habitat Haldimand Inc. Helping Fish and Wildlife in Our Community.


The US Friends of the Earth as well as the Sierra Club have been building the case that the contractor hired by the US Department of State to prepare the environmental impact statement for the Keystone XL pipeline has a conflict of interest in terms of the consultant's relationship to TransCanada which State has not acknowledged. When President Obama denied a permit to TransCanada in January 2012, he allowed for a new request which TransCanada submitted in May 2012 for the northern portion of the pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska. State issued a draft Supplemental EIS in March 2012. FOE filed freedom of information requests with State on April 13 2013 asking for expedited release of information relating to communications between the State Department officials, lobbyists and others representing TransCanada, other governments and other interests between October 7, 2011 to the present requesting also exemption from fee payment. State waived the fee but refused to expedite and did not give out the information or say when the information would be released.

Among the points FOE's lawyers made in the lawsuit filed to get expedited information were:
  • President Obama's reaffirmation of the importance of providing government records to the public and both Congress and the Supreme Court support that a "democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency."
  • Serious conflicts of interest between lobbyists for TransCanada and the US government and contractors were identified in 2011 including TransCanada being a large client of the company which was supposed to prepare the independent Environmental Impact Statement EIS. Also TransCanada's lobbyist was a senior official in Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.
  • the importance of the environmental group's role in "information dissemination, public education and advocacy on environmental issues like the Keystone XL pipeline controversy." GallonLetter notes that the Harper and some other governments are trying to restrict these voices in Canadian projects by legislating against their involvement because they are "not directly affected."
FOE's press release on October 25, 2013 provides various links and indicated that documents were released to the Sierra Club under the Freedom of Information Act and that State has agreed to release more documents on "pro-pipeline lobbying by the Canadian government and colleagues of President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and his predecessor Hillary Clinton." FOE calls the environmental review of the "Keystone XL tar sands pipeline" scandal-ridden, "tainted by lies, lobbying and cover-ups." State's FOIA site was last updated September 30, 2013 including a number of information releases relating to Keystone on September 30, 2013.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


As indicated in the separate article about US Friends of the Earth's fight for access to information on Keystone XL, environmental groups position themselves as providing important input to regulatory decisions and having the right to appeal those decisions. In Canada that position is threatened by federal and provincial rules to allow only those "directly affected" to have a say on such projects as oil and gas extraction and the environmental assessment of those projects.

Alberta rejected the Oil Sands Environmental Coalition's Statement of Concern for the Syncrude Southwest Sand Storage Conversion Project for which statements of concern were due by March 20, 2009. The Coalition is composed of three environmental groups: The Fort McMurray Environmental Association, The Pembina Institute and the Toxics Watch Society.

A briefing note by the ministry suggests that Pembina is not working as cooperatively as it used to and that it publishes negatives stories about the oil sands. The court judgement suggests that this indicates a lack of fair and open procedure in giving preference to those who are "relatively simple to work with", ie haven't appealed a decision. Failure to tell the group about these allegations means the group wasn't given the right to be heard because they didn't know about the contents of the briefing note. The decision maker has a duty to consider relevant and proper reasons, not as in this case irrelevant and improper reasons.

The judgement analysis states that "Nowhere in the EPEA and the Water Act is there a suggestion that promoting Alberta's economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner permits the Director to reject Statement of Concern from those persons or groups who voice negative statement about proposed oil sands development." A quote from the Minister of the Environment in Alberta's Legislative Assembly, Hansard in 1992 when legislation on this issue was introduced indicates an emphasis on public consultation, access to information and increased public participation in all aspects of environmental reporting and enhancement activities.

The judgement applies mostly to the stage of Statement of Concern allowing that because of the adversarial nature of the Environmental Appeals Board, that a higher standard might apply there but said that in this case, the only persons allowed the status of Statement of Concern filers were four Aboriginal and Metis groups: "The Aboriginal interests are well represented but those who voice environmental concerns including Fort McMurray, Fort McKay and Anzac residents and a major environmental organization, Pembina, are not allowed a voice. Apparently no one else applied to be heard so I wonder how real the concern expressed on page 2 of the Briefing Note is: 'with more parties providing submissions there is a need to identify the groups or individuals who are truly directly affected, and this test needs to be fairly applied between the stakeholders.” The decision quashed the exclusion.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


"What you do", the activities of a company or a country, may be more important for economic benefit than "what you sell" (the final product), says a new OECD report building on previous work on the global outsourcing known as Global Value Chains. GVCs create both opportunities and risk. Interconnected economies can enhance resilience but contagion in one part of the system can infect the whole system. Even if globalization is not the cause itself, it can act as a transmission system so cascading disruptions can bring down all or large parts of the economic system. While companies have responsibilities to address risks, governments and international cooperation also have a role to "reconcile national policies with the global nature of economic activity. Informed policies require good data and analysis."

A value chain is "the full range of firms' activities, from the conception of a product to its end use and beyond... It includes activities such as design, production, marketing, distribution and support to the final consumer." Several firms or a single one may supply activities, both goods and services may be supplied, from one or multiple locations. Any primary supplier may outsource to other suppliers in other countries and they in turn to still others. The report describes the growth of "international economic integration" as unprecedented in pace and scale.

Some of the observations identified:
  • increasingly valuable goods are relatively lighter than they used to be making air shipment, which is often weight-based, less expensive. The value of the goods is also relatively higher when compared to the transport costs. Containerization for ocean shipping has reduced transport costs even though port fees and fuel costs have increased.
  • cheaper and more reliable telecommunications have facilitated complex activities over long distances and between companies.
  • foreign countries increasingly have strategic knowledge assets including skilled workers, technology and presence of suppliers.
  • the principal firms leading the GVCs are multinational companies and their affiliates but the relationships vary. Some GVCs, called producer-driven GVCs, share power and knowledge amongst the firm and the lead suppliers e.g. GM, Sony and Apple control the design but the suppliers lead in production. Other GVCs are buyer driven such as Wal-Mart and Nike which supply their own marketing and sales but buy from a large network from independent suppliers who provide relatively cheap product with relatively little power in the relationship.
  • Made in the world: trade statistics no longer count the real contribution made because the count is from the last reporting country even though the item may have been made from contribution by many intermediaries. Double reporting could be avoided by reporting value added instead of gross terms.
  • reputation matters: large enterprises with export orientation are more susceptible to pressure from advocacy groups on compliance with labour legislation, their own codes of conduct in relation to labour and human rights in their own facilities and their supply chain and responsible protection of the environment. The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises is said to be adhered to by 44 OECD and non-OECD countries.
Environmental and Other Risks

Among the examples of risks some specific to the environment:
  • Pandemics. More diseases have the potential to cause pandemics if they are not restricted to a limited area but carried worldwide. Ten ports in the world handle 50% of the global economies' shipping containers. About 30% of the world's airports carry half of the passengers and handle two thirds of the freight serving as potential hub for the distribution of virus through flow of products, people and livestock. During a pandemic, loss of available personnel might add to further cascading effects e.g. utilities, transport, payment systems.
  • Natural disasters and Extreme Weather: In a 2012 World Economics Forum survey, CEOs rated drivers of global supply chain risks. 59% identified natural disasters (an environmental risk) as the highest risk amongst the four categories of risk including geopolitical, economic and technological. 30% identified extreme weather. The report explores the supply shocks especially to the automotive and electronic industries propagated due to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Other natural disasters mentioned affecting GVCs have been Hurricane Katrina (US. 2005), earthquake in Christchurch (New Zealand, 2011), flooding (Thailand, 2011). The flooded area in Thailand produced 45% of the world's computer hard disks used not only in electronics but in automobiles. Surveys indicate that these types of disruptions have increased in recent years.
  • Food security. Among factors leading to food insecurity are increased food price volatility due to globalization, increased monoculture which reduces biodiversity and can lead to crop diseases/insects wiping out large quantities of food, and other systemic risk.
  • Infrastructure: Networks for supply increasingly rely on just a few hubs; if these are disabled e.g. volcanic ash from Iceland in 2010 closed major European airports, many companies would be unable to supply key products or components to market and production systems. Natural disasters, accidental or cyber attacks on communication networks could lead to similar cascading system failures. In a 2007 survey of nearly 500 business, more than half said they were totally dependent on uninterrupted access to the Internet.
  • Lean manufacturing: As companies move towards minimizing their costs, they create a very small margin for error. Just-in-time-, lean manufacturing, and other lack of redundancy means break-down in a part of the chain creates failure in the whole chain. For many companies, the brink is invisible because they don't know just how lean or complex their supply chain is.
System redundancies can help to improve resilience. The report suggests that some companies which haven't paid a lot of attention to risk management are beginning to think about the trade-off between cost reduction/efficiency on one hand and risk diversification/ redundancy on the other. Examples are facilities in different geographic areas, more orders to smaller suppliers, less complex chains of suppliers and near shoring or backshoring: companies returning some of their production to their own countries This is also impacted by rising costs offshore as emerging countries improve their standard of living and wage expectation.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Looking for a part for the kitchen faucet in Home Hardware the other day, GallonLetter's editor was handed the part and was told there was no charge because it is a Moen product which is backed by Moen's Lifetime Limited warranty. I didn't have to show proof that I met the conditions which includes defining the warranty period as the period in which the original consumer purchaser owns their home and that the faucet is subject to normal use in order to be warranted as leak and drip-free. The warranty covers the part only which was fine with me but it does not cover labour if the homeowner needs a service call and doesn't cover errors in installation or product abuse and misuse. Preventing water leaks in homes and businesses should be a priority anyway but as we collect rainwater which is occasionally limited due to drought, fixing drips is a high priority. Other examples, I have found beneficial recently is a free repair of the string on blinds from Blinds R Us, with the original receipt which was more than a decade old and when we lost a couple of wheels from underneath the Envirocycle tumbler composter, the company sent free replacements even though the composter has been used for nearly 15 years with no end-of-life in sight (it does make one think it unfair that companies which make such long lasting useful products pay a profit penalty compared to those which build in obsolescence). In that case, I didn't even have a receipt because we bought the composter at a fundraiser/silent auction of the Recycling Council of Ontario.

In all these instances, the companies showed their commitment for high standards of quality and also helped the environment by not only reducing waste by making products functional again but educating consumers to think about how to reduce waste.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


If in Edmonton, Alberta, visit the Edmonton Waste Management Centre EWMC, which has been called 'the ultimate waste theme park'. It is free but reservations are required (tel: 780 442-5311). Tours are on Fridays, start at 12:30pm and last 2 hours; the tour guide drives a bus-van to the various locations and the tourists walk to viewing corridors and galleries. The composting facility is not part of the tour because as the tour guide said, the organic materials release air emissions which stick to you and make you unpleasant to be around for a long time. The personnel working in the compost building wear protective gear including masks.

In the garbage receiving area (aka Integrated Processing and Transfer Facility), four or five garbage trucks deliver garbage at the same time taking only a few minutes to unload to be replaced by other trucks, a seemingly endless stream of garbage. A big loader shovels the material into several large conveyor belts on the cement floor. Our guide asked how many days of garbage we thought were on the huge building's floor: someone guessed a week, someone else five weeks but it turned out to be just a part of today's deliveries as the floor is cleared at the end of the day to start all over again. Although the EWMC is described as world-famous advanced technology, the tour highlights that technology hasn't advanced all that much as a lot of the sorting depends on employees standing by fast moving conveyor belts removing items some of what are a hazard to themselves as despite instructions to householders, batteries, large sharp metal objects and other items not allowed in garbage end up there anyway. Some of the piles on the grounds of the EWMC show progress is being made in recycling materials such as construction and demolition material but the sheer size of the piles is daunting. And at least one of the piles is pending in pursuit of a recycling solution: a pile of 35 year-old seats from the stadium used by the Edmonton Eskimos; five hundred of the thousands of seats replaced were offered for sale in pairs for $200.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Both winners of the 2013 Blue Planet Prize have made contributions to climate change. This is the 22nd year of the international environmental award, given by the Tokyo-based Asahi Glass Foundation at a ceremony October 30, 2013.

Principal Scientist at the Research Institute for Global Change (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology), Dr. Taroh Matsuno has advanced climate change research building on his doctoral thesis published in 1966 which was the first detailed research on large-scale atmospheric and ocean waves in the region around the equator and how the waves move. Later this research became important to climate dynamics and various phenomena such as El Nino. He has also been involved with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC and the World Meteorological Organization. In his acceptance remarks, Matsuno spoke of how many researchers after WW2 left Japan due to "tough research circumstances" including US-resident Dr. Shukuro Manabe who won the first Blue Planet Prize for establishing the theory of global warming due to increases in greenhouse gases. Matsuno said, "I, being the first generation to have passed that era and yet continue research in Japan, believed it was my responsibility to take the seeds of research that my predecessors have developed and mature them in my country."

Matsuno has also won other awards and is holder of the prestigious life-long title of Honorary Member of the American Meteorological Society given to only a few scientists who have made an outstanding contribution to research on atmosphere and ocean.

Transportation, vehicle technology, fuels and human behaviour and the development of California's climate change and air pollution policies are the selection rationale for the second 2013 Blue Planet Prize winner, Dr. Daniel Sperling, Professor University of California Davis. "Humans are engaged in a risky experiment that need not end in disaster", he said in his acceptance remarks, "This year the world passed an ominous threshold - the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in human civilization. ..Solutions are all around us. New technologies and new behaviours will transform our cities and energy systems. Policies are needed to stimulate innovation and encourage those changes in behaviour, leading us to a tipping point of sustainable development. It is not easy, but with great effort we can recover our healthy blue planet."

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Export Development Canada is one of the investors of Anaergia Inc. which received a total of C47.5 million in new equity which the company will use to help waste producers convert organic waste into resources. Anaergia uses a number of technologies including anaerobic digestion to treat wastewater and waste for renewable energy, fertilizer and clean water.

We are drawing attention to Anaergia because the company's Chairman and Chief Technology Officer is Dr. Andrew Benedek, the founder of Zenon, a clean tech company in the early days of such companies in Canada. In its 26 year history, Zenon Environmental Inc. expanded the use of advanced membranes for ultrafiltration of water and wastewater into the North American market and globally. Zenon became an almost magical growth company until it ran into roadblocks with the further development of the technology; GE bought the company in 2006 for over $700 million. At the time, there were rumours that Benedek might "retire" but the visionary industrialist who gained his PhD in Chemical Engineering in 1970 just keeps on in the game with new companies and new technologies.

Export Development Canada. EDC provides up to CAD 9 million in growth equity to Canadian cleantech company Anaergia. October 7, 2013.
Anaergia Announces C$47.5 Million Growth Equity Commitment. Burlington, Ontario. October 7, 2013.

Anaergia Inc. Burlington, Ontario.


A&W Canada's positioning as "Canada's first national burger restaurant to serve Better Beef raised without added steroids or hormones" announced in September 2013 has raised opposition from the livestock industry. The beef is said also to be free of added preservatives or additives and on the A&W Better Beef website is the statement "The use of antibiotics is only for therapeutic purposes." In the press release, President and CEO is quoted as saying that in addition to the taste, "we have sourced the beef from select ranches that at the edge of sustainable practices." The beef is sourced from what appears to be one producer ("ranch") from each of three countries, Canada, US and Australia.

An example of the beef industry fightback is Andrew Campbell in who says A&W is off his menu because :
  • hormones are natural and some people take additional hormones for various reasons. Animals contain hormones naturally which is why A&W had to use the phrase "added hormones" rather than "hormone-free."
  • growth hormones helps animals convert food into muscle more efficiently for a "huge positive environmental impact". Without these hormones, it would take "12% more cattle, 11% more feed, and 10% more land to produce the same amount of beef as we are producing today. It would also mean 10% more greenhouse gases because of the increased manure."
  • other foods according to Iowa State University list more hormones in other foods than in a beef patty.
Campbell describes the restaurant chain's campaign as "fear, misinformation and down right dirty tricks."

This positioning of beefing about the beef is typical of short term thinking seen often before whenever people search for different food options. For beef producers to attack A&W and suggest not eating at the chain because of the "no added hormone" initiative, means that the industry is attacking one of the fast food chains selling and marketing beef: A&W tells consumers that eating beef is good. The industry doesn't seem to realize that the alternative for the consumer might not be to eat beef somewhere else but to eat chicken. And of course, like the issue of certified organic food which some people choose for health reasons only but others choose for broader environmental reasons, the issue is about the releases of these drugs to the environment where some of the drugs are reacting in unexpected and harmful ways in the natural system even if there are only small amounts in the beef itself with relatively little risk to the individual eater.

Antibiotics For Therapeutic Use Only: Top Priority for Intensive Farm Animal Production

One of the commitments A&W makes which hasn't been on the television ads we've seen is to use antibiotics only for therapeutic purposes. This was the top priority of the 2008 report Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production: the phase out and then ban the non-therapeutic use of antimicrobials. A review of the progress made towards the recommendations of that report by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future recently released says that:
  • the use of antimicrobials in IFAP has increased steadily and surpasses use in humans. Such common use of low dose antimicrobials leads to antimicrobial resistant bacteria and leads to reduced effectiveness of antimicrobials to treat animal and human disease.
  • the use of these antibiotics can only be estimated from sales data as the US Department of Agriculture does not require reporting. For 2011, estimates are that 29.9 million pounds of antibiotics were sold for meat and poultry production representing 80% of the total volume of antibiotics sold in the US for all purposes.
  • about 685 drugs are approved for use in animal production. Effects are not just on the animals but the recycling of byproducts spread antimicrobials and pharmaceuticals back into food, e.g. the majority of samples of feather meal used in animal and fish feed was found to contain a class of antibiotics banned for use in poultry in 2005.
In regard to this issue, the followup report says, "little progress has been made to change patterns of use... the voluntary approach preferred by the FDA and the lack of willingness by the industry to alter its behaviour suggest that meaningful change is unlikely in the near future."

As in the US, agriculture is the highest volume use of antibiotics in Canada. In 2011, the Canadian Medical Association identified widespread misuse of antibiotics by agriculture In Canada as rampant and called on the government to require all antibiotics for animals to be prescribed only by a veterinarian. The Harper government abolished the national committee overseeing antibiotic resistance and has failed to establish a Canadian Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance. Various medical associations have taken positions to urge the industry and governments to restrict or reduce antibiotic use in livestock.

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Founder of two US environmental groups, first Worldwatch and then Earth Policy Institute, Lester Brown has written many books, especially on food and agricultural policy, and has advised governments on preventing famine. In a new autobiography called Breaking New Ground, he describes his life shaped by time and space. He was born "in a small house for hired hands, nine miles west of Bridgeton, New Jersey, on March 28, 1934." His father must have had a similar optimistic outlook as Lester himself, because the father made the transition from farm hand to farmer during the Depression. The book follows Lester's life from those early days which included starting and managing one of the largest tomato growing farms in New Jersey to travelling the globe hobnobbing with state leaders advising on environmental policies and innovations as well as running the environmental research institutes he founded. For example, Worldwatch published its magazines and reports in 25 languages. He is a man of incredible energy whose attention has for many years been focussed on "some of the larger issues facing humanity": population growth, soil erosion, hunger, and environmental trends which "more broadly threaten the sustainability of the global economy, and indeed, of civilization."

This is a man with a resume for a couple of lives, who has written many books, made 1,800 presentations and given so many interviews that he can't count how many. Brown says he has simplified his lifestyle in certain areas to gain more time for writing and his other work. For example, he wears the same style light-blue Oxford weave cotton shirts all year around - short sleeves in summer, long in winter, with dark blue shorts in summer and navy blue corduroy trousers in winter. That simplicity probably has an environmental benefit in reducing material and space. Like other environmental gurus, he might need that as an offset to the what probably amounts to a few million miles of air and other travel miles he has clocked. GallonLetter thinks that it is one of the challenges of those who promote environmental sustainability that they often have to travel to tell people how to meet those challenges.

Brown, Lester R. Breaking New Ground: A Personal History. New York, New York: W. W.Norton & Company, 2013.


A couple of Canadian municipalities won Excellence Awards from SWANA, the Solid Waste Association of North America, which recognized 37 facilities in 13 categories. Each category has three winners: gold, silver and bronze.

In the Public Education category, the Township of Langley, British Columbia won gold for its Green Can Program.

The Region of Durham won bronze in the public education category and gold in the Special Waste Management category for its Batteries dead? Recycle instead!

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Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, contributing details on the physical science of climate change for the IPCC's 5th Assessment Report, says in its final draft that the Earth's energy budget is being altered by natural and human caused (anthropogenic) substances and processes which are driving climate change. Imbalance in the earth's budget is due to "more energy from the sun entering than exiting the top of the atmosphere, since at least circa 1970. It is virtually certain that Earth has gained substantial energy from 1971 -2010." About 93% of the warming is of oceans, 3% of melting ice (Arctic sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers), 3% of warming of the continents and 1% of the atmosphere.

Since the previous assessment report, more detailed observations and improved climate models allow for the attribution of detected changes due to human influences, "changes across the climate system, including regional temperatures, the water cycle, global energy budget, cryosphere and oceans (including ocean acidification), point to global climate change resulting primarily from anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gas concentrations." Even in a warmer world, there is variability and there may be a decade or so of decreasing surface temperature; the atmosphere has a small heat capacity so as it gets warmer, heat is transferred from the upper parts of the ocean to deeper ocean or more heat is radiated into space. These interchanges are not enough in the long term to offset the anthropogenic forcing of the Earth's energy budget over the longer time scale.

The climate system has multiple timescales, says the report, from annual to thousands of years, impacted and impacting different thermal and carbon reservoirs; e.g. the deep oceans are on a timescale of hundreds of thousands of years. Once a certain amount of greenhouse gases has been emitted, commitment to global warming is "in the pipeline." The past emissions will force "a persistent warming for hundreds of years, continuing at about the level of warming that has been realized when emissions ceased" even though land and oceans will be slowly reducing CO2 in the atmosphere by taking up carbon. And oceans will continue to rise and become more acidic as they continue to take in CO2. And because of the complexity of earth's systems, changes in one of earth's budgets affects others such as the water budget e.g. burning and clearing forest to make agricultural land adds CO2 to the atmosphere but also affects the rates of evapotranspiration.

Between 2016 to 2035, global mean temperature warming is more likely than not to exceed 1 deg C but not very likely to exceed 1.5 deg C .(compared to pre-industrial). The report describes what happened in the past when atmospheric temperatures rose to specified degrees. By 2081 to 2100, global warming is likely to exceed 1.5 deg C for three of scenarios and likely to exceed 2 deg C for 2 scenarios. In the longer term, much higher degrees of warming may occur.

The report suggests that to keep the temperature below 2 deg C, counting CO2 emissions alone from all anthropogenic sources, the cumulative carbon budget can't exceed of 1000 PgC (1) over the entire industrial period. The beginning of the industrial era is about 1750 and about half of this "allowable" budget or 545 (between 460 to 630) PgC has been emitted by 2011. Since there are other gases than CO2 which also cause climate change and related interactions then CO2 emissions would have to be even lower. A particular concern is release of methane if the permafrost melts. For more than 2 million years, before the Industrial Era, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere varied between 180 ppm (parts per million) to 290 ppm. By 2011, concentrations were 390.5 ppm.

Because this is a review of the physical basis of climate change, the scientists were unwilling to say what degree a threshold should be set to avoid "dangerous interference" because "climate impacts are geographically diverse and sector specific...some changes may be delayed or irreversible, and some impacts could be beneficial." Even if the temperature globally were stabilized, the entire Earth system might not be stabilized. The report states that the scientists aren't advocating because that would apply value judgment about the aggregate current and future costs and benefits. Further reports for the 5th assessment will recommend on policy.

GallonLetter notes that while there has been the usual outcry from mostly uninformed climate sceptics (e.g. Forbes: "IPCC In A Stew How They Cooked Their Latest Climate Books") there are also critics who support action on climate change but who also say that the very concept of budget is a bad idea as invariably politicians will want to spend or overspend just delaying action.

Note 1. One Pg [petagram] = one billion metric tonnes = 1000 x one billion kg PgC is a measure specific for carbon.

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Canada signed onto the Copenhagen Accord in December 2009 and committed to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. 2005 Emissions were 737 Mt. The Canadian target is 612 Mt by 2020 but EC's latest report on emissions trends says, "Under the “with current measures” scenario, Canada’s GHG emissions in 2020 are projected to be 734 megatonnes (Mt)."

In 2011, Canada's emissions were 702 Mt or 19% (111 Mt) above 1990 emissions of 591 Mt. Probably due more to economic downturn and the decline of Ontario's manufacturing sector, known as "hot air" when similar reductions occurred in the former Soviet Union, national greenhouse gas emissions declined to 689Mt in 2008 and then started to rise again.

In August 2012, Environment Minister Peter Kent issued a somewhat misleading news release entitled "Canada Half Way to Meeting 2020 Greenhouse Gas Emission Target." The lead sentence indicated a present tense of "Canada is half way towards meeting its 2020 greenhouse gas emission target" but the rest of the story was all about projections and obviously, at that date, Canada was nowhere near being halfway as that would have had to be nearer 674 MT of emissions in 2011, the last year of available emissions data. In fact emissions in 2011 were 702 MT, not even close. If one has ever wondered whether government releases false information, the answer could not be more certain than in the case of this statement to the press.

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When Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in December 2011, Prime Minister Harper faulted the Liberals for failing to implement a plan to achieve the targets as if he really had intentions to achieve the targets set under the Copenhagen Agreement.

In December 14, 2011 Hansard he said,
"Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is a fact that the Kyoto targets were unattainable, even when the accord was signed. That is why the government that signed the accord did not have a plan to implement it. That is also why we are working with the international community to create a protocol that will include all the major emitters in the world."
as a followup on the December 13, 2011 Hansard when he said,
"What made absolutely no sense for this country was a Liberal government that signed the Kyoto protocol, signed what I quite frankly think were stupid targets, and then had no plan after 10 years in office to even implement those. That was irresponsible. This government is ensuring we have a responsible position for this country."

See above article on Canada's Emission Trends showing little progress on Canada's commitments. As June Carter Cash sang, "Times a wastin. The cake’s no good if you don't mix the batter and bake it."

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