THE GALLON ENVIRONMENT LETTER
Institute for Business and the Environment
410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231
Vol. 18, No. 8, December 8, 2014
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There's been a lot of talk recently about
Green Bonds but it has been somewhat unclear, at least to GallonLetter‛s editor,
what it is that makes a bond, or other financial instrument, green. So for this
last issue of 2014 we have delved into the topic and have come up - well, read
on to find out what it is that we have come up with!
We also discuss some of the features of the
recent packaging expo, PACK EXPO, held in Chicago, including the nearby homes
and buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, an early US eco-visionary
architect. We also use the recent two metre dump of snow on Buffalo, New York,
to explain why more snow does not mean less climate change. In fact, the more
snow may be caused by climate change.
As we go to press, the nations of the world
are gathered in Lima, Peru, under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on
Climate Change. Expectations for major decisions are essentially zero, with next
year's meeting in Paris having been designated as the key decision point for a
new international agreement on climate change but hopes even for that waypoint
are not very high at this point. In our next issue of Gallon Environment Letter,
early in January, we will review the Lima meeting, its announcements and its
We wish all our readers the very best holiday
season and here's hoping for more sustainable development for all the people of
the world in the New Year.
CONTRIBUTION TO A GREEN ECONOMY
At a time of financial downturn, green bonds
are a way of expanding financing sources to help meet environmental goals but
they should not be regarded as a panacea, states a 2012 paper by the Paris-based
organization CDC Climat (1). Green bonds are defined as bonds that result in
environmental benefit or reduced environmental vulnerability. Climate bonds are
green bonds which are investments in adapting to or mitigating climate change.
Among some of the observations
- Institutional investors (e.g. banks, pension
funds, insurers) are active in the bond market because of the risk-return
ratio, transaction volume size (large preferred) and bond standardization
which reduces processing cost. GallonLetter notes that some observers regard
this predominance of institutional investors as a weakness in the green bond
- Unlike conventional bonds, green bonds
generally require monitoring or reporting on whether the funded initiatives
have achieved their environmental objectives. As standards for green bonds
develop, the type of assurances about the environmental benefits, not only
potential but achieved, add to the cost of issuing the bond.
- Green bonds expand the ability of the issuer
to access Socially Responsible Investors who have incorporated non-financial
criteria, social, environmental and governance ESG, a market that has been
- Many of the projects funded by green bonds
have features suitable for bonds with upfront costs followed by steady returns
over the long term e.g. from renewable energy or energy efficiency
- Investors in different countries vary in
their interest in responsible investment funds. Pension funds in the UK and
The Netherlands are more likely to be interested in investment in
environmental initiatives in order to label the investment as responsible.
Some institutional investors have signed on to various initiatives such as the
UN Global Compact and sustainable finance commitments which increases their
interest in green bonds.
- Multilateral institutions and governments can
provide guarantees, reducing the risk and often providing fixed rates of
return. The report suggests that depending on regulations in different
countries, some private green bonds "are hampered by a less favourable
reputation in the markets" e.g. bonds are called green but are not directed to
environmental projects. Various solutions have been developed including
pooling multiple but related projects e.g. wind energy in Germany and France,
with public guarantees of such projects through export credit agencies (see
also separate article on Export Development Canada). Standards for green bonds
such as the Climate Bond Standard, audited by independent verifiers, can
ensure that the investment meets ESG criteria, protecting the reputation of
- Governments including local governments can
use the issuance of green bonds to raise awareness of their commitment to
- Issuers with both conventional and green
bonds may not be offering any different investment than before because
projects called green such as infrastructure e.g. wastewater treatment, were
always part of the conventional bond issue. Additionality means that the green
financing is in addition to rather than merely replacing already existing or
likely to exist financing. Even without additionality, it is possible that a
green bond requires best environmental practices and then does improve the
environmental benefits as well as increasing awareness of best practices.
Green Bonds into Further Action
"Green bonds provide a promising solution to
early-stage funding issues, and therefore complement existing climate tools as
emissions trading systems or carbon offsetting. Thus, the first ones – the green
bonds - help to finance the projects made profitable by the second ones – the
climate tools." concludes the report, "Bonds are part of the preferred
mechanisms envisaged for the operational implementation of the Green Climate
Fund at the international level. The purpose of this fund is to manage a
significant portion of the new additional funding from developed countries for
developing countries’ climate policies."
Note (1) Self description: "CDC Climat is a
limited company that is wholly-owned by Caisse des Dépôts. The Caisse des Dépôts
et Consignations is a French financial organization created in 1816, and part of
the government institutions under the control of the Parliament. CDC Climat
provides independent expertise on economic issues relating to climate policies
in four areas: the carbon and energy markets, emission-reduction initiative
mechanisms in the farming and forestry sectors, local climate policies, and
investment and assistance with decision-making. CDC Climat Research is ranked as
the leading think tank in France and 7th in Europe for climate
Endorsed by a number of big banks and other
investment groups, Green Bond Principles is
a set of voluntary guidelines for issuing
green bonds. GBP provides for availability of information and standard
disclosures for evaluating the environmental impact of the investment. However,
the guidelines don't claim to provide authority on some key issues. For example,
investors have to decide for themselves whether the funded projects are eligible
green projects based on the information provided by the bond
The guidelines cover four
1) Use of Proceeds: The issuer should declare
what the eligible categories are e.g. a potential but not limited list includes:
- Renewable energy
- Energy efficiency (including efficient
- Sustainable waste management
- Sustainable land use (including sustainable
forestry and agriculture)
- Biodiversity conservation
- Clean transportation
- Clean water and/or drinking
These categories should have clear
environmental benefits which should be described and if possible, assessed
2) Process for Project Evaluation and
Selection: The issuer should have a process to determine the overall
environmental profile including both direct and indirect impacts, including
social and governance issues and whether the investment fits the eligible
3) Management of Proceeds: The proceeds should
be tracked and publicly disclosed. Independent third party auditing to verify
the tracking of the fund flows is offered as one of the options for
auditing/verification but is not required.
4) Reporting: Annual or semi-annual reporting
should provide details on projects and investment in that projects and intents
about investments for unallocated proceeds. Issuers should use impact reporting
standards that have been developed over the last few years to report on
indicators such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions, number of people with
increased access to clean drinking water, and so on.
Assurance that the Green Bond offering meets
the GBP can include hiring a consultant whose recommendations may or may not be
made public, third party independent verification or certification. GallonLetter
thinks that an independent auditor could have difficulty providing assurance
because of the generic nature of the guidance provided by the principles at this
Ceres, formerly the Coalition for
Environmentally Responsible Economies, has long been involved in investment in
sustainability and directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk and Business for
Innovative Climate and Energy Policy.
subscribers see links to original documents and references
Barclays MSCI Green Bond Index, launched in
November 2014, will provide assessment on four dimensions in addition to fixed
income index criteria said to be of interest to green investors. These are "use
of proceeds, project evaluation, management of proceeds, and
Sean Kidney, CEO of the Climate Bonds
Initiative, is quoted as saying, “The green bond market has grown enormously in
recent years. The availability of market standard indices is important in
establishing clear, broadly accepted guidelines for the new issuers rapidly
entering the market. The stature of Barclays and MSCI will help to bring
attention to green bonds.” The green bond market is expected to be US$30-$40
billion this year rising to $100 billion next year. The index is said to improve
the transparency and to standardize evaluation as a tool for both bond issuers
and institutional investors in what was once a niche market and is now seen as
an important new market.
subscribers see links to original documents and references
CAPITALISM": CLEAN50 RECOGNIZES 2015 CONTRIBUTORS
Delta Management, an executive recruitment
company which searches for candidates for jobs requiring clean tech, corporate
social responsibility and sustainability professionals, founded the Canada
Clean50 Award program which recognizes "green collar" people, both clients and
candidates, at a Summit held in September 2014.
In terms of this issue's feature on investing,
one of the categories is Angels: Investors & Eco System Support. One of the
honourees is Celine Bak, Founder and CEO, Analytica Advisors. The firm provides
research on the Canadian cleantech industry, global markets and working with
investors and others including government, set a goal to achieve a $60 billion
clean technology industry by 2020. She is founder of the Canadian Clean
Technology Coalition and Global Sector Practice Leader for Clean Technology at
DFAIT (Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada).
Other honourees in the Angel category
- Rui Resendes, Executive Director, GreenCentre
Canada. In two years, the GreenCentre is said to have invested just over $5.6
million in 76 technologies and new ventures across Canada and leveraged $22
- Don Roberts, Vice-Chair, CIBC Wholesale
Banking. He is said to be the only vice chair of a major financial institution
with a primary mandate for renewable energy and clean tech. Last year, CIBC
was first in Canada and fifth in North America for providing debt
Among the 15 projects recognized, again in
line with GallonLetter's theme, was SolarShare, a provincial cooperative which
invests in commercial scale solar projects and sells bonds when the facilities
are already built.
The Ontario government buys the electricity
generated under a 20 year contract. In order to buy the bond, investors must be
residents of Ontario, pay a lifetime membership fee of $40 and buy a minimum of
$1000 worth e.g. the latest offering is a 5-year bond maturing October 2019 and
paying an annual interest rate of 5%. For 2014, $8 million in solar bonds have
been offered and $6 million sold. Although the bonds are described as RRSP
eligible, there are special instructions for that kind of purchase.
Some of the other projects recognized
- HP designed for the environment to make print
cartridges recyclable and with plastics recycler Lavergne Group, is using the
recycled material to make new cartridges.
- TELUS Corp's 80% less energy use at its
Quebec Data Centre won the People’s Choice “Top Project” Award
- The Weston Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow,
a curriculum program for grade six offered to students in Ontario by the
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority provides environmental education and
experience such as overnight trip at outdoor centres. GallonLetter is
particularly interested in this as one of our associates is involved with a
local nature-oriented group which encouraged and worked to prepare the
facility/grounds so that the Grand River Conservation Authority reopened a
local nature centre for children and school group experiences.
Nominations for the 2016 Clean50 to be
announced September 2016 are open until July 1, 2015
Note: GallonLetter's writing about investments
is for providing examples of what is going on and should not be taken as an
endorsement; readers should check for themselves on all matters.
subscribers see links to original documents and references
ONTARIO GREEN BONDS
Ontario became the first government in Canada
to issue green bonds with an issue of $500 million for which there were orders
totalling $2.4 billion by Canadian and international institutional investors.
The framework for the green bonds are said to be consistent with the Green Bond
Principles. Funding from the first green bond will be used to fund the Eglinton
Crosstown Light Rail Transit which is described as the largest transit expansion
project in Toronto history, scheduled to be completed in 2020. The bonds are
part of the province's economic plan which has funding for $130 billion in
infrastructure over ten years. The Auditor General of Ontario will audit use of
funding for these projects.
Project selection is done by the province by
the Ontario Financing Authority (OFA) with advice from the Province’s Green Bond
Advisory Panel (GBAP) which has staff from the
Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and
other ministries and agencies depending on the project e.g. Metrolinx for public
transit with guidance from the Green Bond framework. Specifically excluded are
fossil fuel and nuclear projects. Projects include:
- Clean Transportation e.g. public transit
- Energy efficiency and conservation e.g.
public sector building efficiency improvements
- Clean Energy and Technology e.g. smart grid
infrastructure and energy storage
- Forestry, Agriculture and Land Management
e.g. sustainable forest management
- Climate Adaptation and Resilience e.g. flood
protection and storm water management
Finance Minister Charles Sousa said,
"Ontario's green bond program will help us invest in transit and other
sustainable infrastructure projects across the province, which will help create
new opportunities for all Ontarians." While many of us living in sparsely
populated areas understand the difficulties of transit here, a long term plan
that includes some level of transit to connect more remote regions to the city
transit services or local job centres ought, in our opinion, to be on the table
for discussion for green infrastructure.
Green Bonds pioneered by The World Bank and
the International Finance Corporation in 2008 were intended to raise awareness
of the opportunities in climate friendly investment. Since 2008, the World Bank
has issued $7 billion in green bonds in 17 currencies and the IFC $3.7 billion.
While small potatoes in the $80 trillion bond market, the popularity of green
bonds, according to a brief from the World Bank in October "took off in 2013,
and it has been growing as investments in environmentally friendly growth gain
popularity. Green bonds are fixed income, liquid financial instruments that are
easy to understand, and the funds they raise are dedicated exclusively to
climate-mitigation and adaption projects, and other environmentally beneficial
activities. This provides investors an attractive investment proposition as well
as an opportunity to support environmentally sound projects." Private finance is
seen as essential to confront climate change at a time when government budgets
are pinched. The Green Bonds issues by the World Bank Treasury and IFC are used
to fund "renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation and
other low-carbon projects, as well as financing for forest and watershed
management, and infrastructure to prevent climate-related flood damage and build
climate resilience." Green bonds also provide an alternatives where investors
seek to divest from fossil-fuel investments.
By October 2013, the green bond market was
estimated to be over $32 billion. Other development banks, states, cities and
corporations are working with the World Bank and IFC on the use of green bonds.
In April 2014, the World Bank entered into an agreement with the Dubai Supreme
Council of Energy (DSCE) to design a Dubai green investment
State of Massachusetts, Ile de France, and
Export Development Canada have issued green bonds and the French utility GDF
Suez issued the largest green bond yet, a 2.5 billion euro ($3.4 billion) bond
for renewal energy projects in May 2014. Low-carbon growth is the focus of an
investment in November 2013 by Zurich Insurance for a green bond portfolio of
USD 1 billion managed by BlackRock.
Led by a group of banks and developed with
Ceres, the Green Bond Principles were published in January 2014 to set some
standards and provide more transparency about what the money collected through
green bonds is used for, for example, the sectors funded include "renewable
energy, energy efficiency, sustainable waste management, sustainable land use,
biodiversity conservation, clean transportation, and clean water." About 55
large banks, investors, investment management and others have expressed support
for principles including America Merrill Lynch, Citibank, Credit Agricole, JP
Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and SEB.
Benefits of Green Bonds
Both society and the environment benefit from
green bonds. Examples from the World Bank and IFC green bonds
- A geothermal project in Indonesia increases
access to affordable, clean energy and reduces 1.1 million tons of greenhouse
gas emissions annually.
- Improved energy efficiency in factories in
China reduces costs and 4 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions a
- A large scale solar power facility in Mexico
provides energy for 164,000, provides jobs and avoids air pollution and
greenhouse gas emissions from diesel generators.
- An Indian company is recycling e-waste from
computers and other electronics providing employment while reducing toxic
disposal to the environment and avoiding risks to human health.
subscribers see links to original documents and references
Export Development Canada, an agency of the
federal government, launched its first green bond on January 23, 2014, a USD 300
million, 3 year global offering to support financing of environmental-related
business including remediation of air, water or soil and climate change
mitigation. (see GallonLetter Vol. 18 No. 6 Canada EDC Releases CSR Report)
An independent review of EDC's Green Bond
Framework for assessing eligibility for Green Bond investment, though not of
individual projects, by CICERO, a research centre at the University of Oslo made
the following observations among others:
- EDC is modelling its framework on IFC, World
Bank and OECD. The EDC framework also addresses host country
- Detailed assessments of the projects in which
green funds are invested present challenges due to differing methods and
interpretation, data availability, and subjectivity no matter how many experts
contribute to the assessment.
- Transparency not only about assessment and
selection processes but about the specific projects judged to be eligible and
details about the investments actually made is essential.
- Criteria also target what is not eligible
e.g. Green Bonds cannot be used to invest in coal power although
commercializing carbon capture and storage could change that.
- Even if a specific project reduces greenhouse
gas emissions, there may be a rebound effect e.g. the energy efficiency may
reduce the cost of the power resulting in more energy production hereby
increasing the GHGs.
- Based on the sectors which are eligible for
Green Bonds, some sector projects may have many challenges in measuring and
verifying effects and some may have little effect on GHG emission. For
example, water management may have little impact on GHG emissions but have
other positive effects and be positive for water supply security. Renewable
energy development has environmental impacts and is likely to be in addition
to fossil fuels use rather than replacing them potentially leading to more GHG
emissions. Sustainable Forests Management likely leads to reduced emissions of
carbon dioxide but may not be permanent so the time line is
The conclusion of the second opinion which
focuses on the GHG emission reduction potential of the Green Bond Framework is
that the EDC has established a reasonable system although there are too many
methods and frameworks for assessing projects which result in inconsistencies.
The sectors most likely to reduce GHG emissions are "waste management, recycling
& recovery, renewable energy, alternative energy transportation and public
ground transport, and industrial process improvements."
Note(1) CICERO is the Center for International
Climate and Environmental Research, an independent research centre associated
with the University of Oslo in Norway.
PROP 1 WATER BONDS
Slightly more than 67% of California voters
voted yes on Proposition 1 on the November 4, 2014 ballot: Prop1 approves a
$7.12 billion bond for California's water system, including
- state water supply infrastructure projects,
such as surface and groundwater storage; ecosystem and watershed protection
and restoration; drinking water protection; water supply management; water
recycling and advanced water treatment technology; and flood control.
- transfers $425 million of bonds not used from
prior water bond acts.
- allocates money from the General Fund to pay
off the bonds. Bond repayment is estimated to cost $360 million per year for
- requires matching funds from non-state
sources for some projects
Among the authors in favour side of Prop 1 in
the state's official voter's guide was Governor Jerry Brown. The argument
- Both environment and economy are addressed by
the bond to supply reliable water sources for agriculture and businesses
affected by multi-year drought and an aging water infrastructure.
- The investment is fiscally responsible
because it deals with critical projects.
- Existing water supply is protected by clean
up of contaminated groundwater, water recycling, efficiency improvements and
provision of clean drinking water where contamination is an issue.
- New storage will increase the amount of water
available during dry years.
- Lakes, rivers, and stream will be protected
from pollution and lead to restoration of fish and wildlife.
The Yes side is supported by both Republicans
and Democrats, conservation groups such as the Nature Conservancy, Ducks
Unlimited and the Natural Resources Defense Council NDRC, farm groups such as
California Farm Bureau Federation, and other groups. NRDC says that investment
in environmental restoration projects will protect salmon and other fisheries
and that though critics say the bond will fund dams, new dams are not
Various groups issued statement of opposition
some of which focussed on the idea that the bond will do nothing for long term
water self-sufficiency because funds will be directed to the same old poor water
planning that caused the water shortage in the first place with serious
environmental impacts. For example. The California Sportfishing Protection
Alliances makes a number of points most of which relate to the idea that
environmental protection is "eviscerated" while "extravagant subsidies" are
given to special interest groups. Arguments against include:
- The bonds undermine the principle of
beneficiary pays. Many projects such as dams and other damaging projects have
remained unfunded because the water users would have had to pay. Now the
taxpayer will pay and speculators will make millions in profit selling back
water already owned by the public back to the public.
- Instead of requiring those who contaminated
the water or caused other environmental impacts to the water, taxpayers will
be footing the bill. The state should require the polluters to pay for the
damage they have done.
- Dam projects on rivers will have large
allocations with damage to fish stock.
The Centre for Biological Diversity focussed
on protection of species mentioned arguments in opposition such as:
- Imperiled Chinook salmon, smelt and steelhead
will be further stressed with more demand in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay
Delta. Instead of building more dams for "powerful Big Agribusinesses", there
should be more investment in water conservation, efficiency and
- About $572.2 million is allocated by the bond
for buying water from upstream sources which becomes abandoned water to be
used from the Delta at a cost to ecosystems and species.
- $2.7 billion is allocated for water storage.
More dams and reservoirs will damage ecosystems without adding very much in
drought times; all is paid for at taxpayers expense.
- Due to the unpredictable climate facing
California, the bond won't result in long-term water solutions.
subscribers see links to original documents and references
MARKET-BASED TRADING SYSTEMS FOR REDUCING POLLUTANTS
Green bonds are just one of the market-based
approaches to dealing with climate and environmental issues. Emissions trading
is another. Richard Sandor, founder of the Chicago Climate Exchange, did a lot
of work to develop the emissions trading process.
With a doctoral thesis on the economics of
innovation (University of Minnesota, 1967), Richard Sandor moved from
professorship in business to being economist at the Chicago Board of Trade, over
time becoming a financial inventor of innovations including electronic exchange
and financial products such as futures contracts. He suggests that certain
financial innovations create supply and demand for products which previously
didn't exist adding to economic benefits as well in specific applications to
environmental needs. His 2012 book, Good Derivatives, is a biography, a history
of the changes in the commodities trading systems over the last four decades and
a training manual on how the financial products are structured which could be
more than you ever wanted to know. It provides an insight into the risks and
challenges faced by his involvement in creating the Chicago Climate Exchange. He
was elected to the CBOT Board of Directors in 1990; when the Clean Air Act
Amendment of 1990 was passed, he proposed a market solution to acid rain because
"My research suggested that a futures market in SO2 allowances was potentially
as big as wheat futures. It has the potential to benefit America." The US
Environment Protection Agency eventually awarded the right to conduct the annual
auction of SO2 to CBOT. The first auction was held in 1993 with most of the
bidding done by U.S. utilities which thought that buying permits was cheaper
than the cost of abatement. SO2 permit prices ranged from $122 to $450 a ton of
SO3 while the cost of abatement ranged between $400 to $800 a ton. Greenpeace
protesters marched to protest the trading of pollution but Sandor wrote that the
environmental group ignored that trading was the best way to solve pollution
problems at the lowest possible cost to society. By bidding on the permits,
civil society including environmental groups can also participate in retiring
the permits thereby reducing the amount of emissions allowed.
Sandor lauds the early leadership role by the
U.S. in climate change. During the Kyoto Protocol negotiations, the U.S. was
promoting emissions trading while the EU was sceptical - later this turned
around. His book provides details on engineering the market architecture for a
carbon market which eventually led to his setting up the Chicago Climate
Exchange CCX as a US company which traded CO2 allowances from 2003 to 2010.
While companies voluntarily joined and traded with a peak price reaching $7.40
per ton in mid-2008, the lack of US federal legislation on climate change caused
a decline to $0.05 by 2010. CCX tried to lobby for federal recognition of early
action by companies but supportive legislation which could have benefitted CCX
died partly due to, in his view, the dysfunction in Congress, the favouring of
command-and-control after the 2008 economic crisis added disillusionment about
market forces and courtroom challenges to the US EPA about its right to regulate
greenhouse gases. Another problem Sandor identified was the lack of
institutional memory in Congress: he says the average age of many of the
staffers is under 30 years or so and they were too young to have seen the
effectiveness of some of the market systems to address pollution e.g. acid rain
and the smaller scale but effective phasing out of lead in gasoline in 1982
where companies had a cap of 1.1 grams of lead per gallon but could buy and sell
lead rights and even bank lead rights for use in later years saving an estimated
$250 million annually in abatement costs.
In the EU, the European Climate Exchange ECX
located in Amsterdam was launched by CCX in 2005. It was made viable by enabling
legislation of the European Union Emissions Trading System. Mostly due to the
value of ECX, CCX was sold to International Commercial Exchange ICE for $604
million. Sandor speculates that China is likely to establish a cap-and-trade
system before the US does.
GallonLetter received a signed copy of
Sandor's book as an attendee at a School of the Environment, University of
Toronto event held last December with Sandor as a keynote speaker. Susan
McGeachie, Adjunct Professor at the School was moderator. Members of the panel
were Paul Dickinson (Chair Carbon Disclosure Project), Toby Heaps (CEO of
Corporate Knights), Erik Haites (Editor, International Climate Finance and
Special Advisor to the United Nations on market mechanisms and climate finance)
and Ed Waitzer (Partner, Stikeman, Elliot LLP and Director of the Sustainable
Accounting Standards Board SASB).
See also his new book set for release December
1, 2014. Sandor, Richard, Murali Kanakasabai, Rafael Marques and Nathan Clark of
Environmental Financial Products. Sustainable Investing and Environmental
Markets: Opportunities in a New Asset Class. World Scientific Publishing. 2014.
Foreword by Amory Lovins who says industrial capitalism often doesn't value
natural capital (nature) which may turn out to more valuable than the
conventional financial and physical capital (money and goods) and Chapter 1 (A
Brief Survey of Environmental Asset Classes) are available at http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/9203
BETWEEN PACKAGING MAKERS AND MUNICIPAL RECYCLING
One of the exhibitors, ecologic (TM),
"packaging the earth can live with" at the Chicago PACK EXPO held November 2-5
is described as "America's first molded fiber bottle." This packaging first
introduced in 2008 has an outer fibre shell and inside is a plastic bag with a
plastic valve or dispenser, the same principle as the already common wine bag in
a box. An organic dairy, Straus Family Creamery (Marshall, California) was the
first to try the packaging for their milk although their milk is mostly sold in
returnable glass bottles. In 2011, Seventh Generation introduced a liquid
laundry detergent bottle made of 70% recycled cardboard and 30% old newspaper
fibres produced by Ecologic. The packaging was available at natural retailers
but now the fibre bottle, called the eco.bottle container, is becoming available
at retailers such as Loblaw, Canadian Tire, Metro and London Drugs in Canada as
So Is it
Recyclable by the Consumer?
According to the manufacturer, the shell is
recyclable and compostable according to ASTM
D 6868. The brochure says, "Split side to
separate and recycle or compost" and then the plastic bags are supposed to be
recycled with plastic bags. However, throughout Canada, most municipalities
provide specific guidelines which often specify packaging not by material such
as moulded fibre but by what the packaging is used for. So just in regard to one
material for this bottle, the moulded fibre shell, the Haldimand County
Recycling Guide for the Paper Fibres Box which applies to us here in Fisherville
says Accepted are "cardboard egg cartons and take-out beverage trays."
The guide implies that the fibre detergent
bottle part is not acceptable so we called the County help number where we were
told that the disassembled bottle probably would be accepted but we should
contact the waste management company that actually handles the recycling. In
that telephone conversation we were asked what the recycling code was to which
we responded that it was moulded paper not plastic so there was no code. Then we
were told it wasn't an issue and would probably be accepted but "If the drivers
don't like it, they will put a sticker on the recycling box to reject it or toss
out the item before collecting the box." We have studied the recycling guides of
both small and large cities and waste management commissions in Canada and see
the same problem repeated. Packaging which could be recycled isn't because the
guides are confusing and/or restrictive. Even if the consumers are willing to go
the extra step of disassembling the eco-bottle, they too might find that their
recycling box is rejected.
subscribers see links to original documents and references
WRIGHT: AMERICAN STYLE
During PACK EXPO in Chicago at the beginning
of November, the central hotels were very expensive and mostly full, so
GallonLetter's editor took Chicago rapid transit, an electrical rail system with
a long history with very frequent and clean service, to Oak Park, which is now a
commercial and residential area but when young architect Frank Lloyd Wright
first started out and built his first home for his own family with $5000 lent to
him by the head of his firm, Louis Sullivan, he used to ride his horse on the
prairie surrounding his home. When his boss started seeing homes in Oak Park
with the telltale look of the Wright design which hadn't been contracted through
his firm, he didn't hold with bootlegging and the two parted ways with long
Chicago and Oak Park are full of
Wright-designed buildings which we hope to visit some day but PACK EXPO was so
huge that there was too little time but we did see that first family home to
which Wright added a studio in 1897. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, which
preserves and conducts tours of Wright buildings, says that about a third of
Wright's life work was produced from that Oak Park location between 1898 and
1909. Wright did not have a formal education but his mother dreamed of him
becoming an architect even when he was only a child and provided him with
education working with shapes and learning from nature. In his studio, he
gathered formally trained architects including Marion Mahony, the first licensed
woman architect in the US, draftsmen, artists such as sculptors and painters and
other skilled and talented people who helped turn his early ideas of a Prairie
style into practice. These people were often inspired by the writings of
naturalist writers like Thoreau and wanted to design new types of buildings for
the American landscape rather than the traditional European style and setting.
Some call Wright an eco-visionary before green
became an environmental term because of his philosophy about “organic
architecture” with many features such as consideration of the natural setting of
the site in the design of the buildings. Part of that philosophy related to use
of local materials. A tan brick from which he made a curved wall outside his
home was of brick locally made in Chicago, a brick most people at the time
relegated to other less-front-and-centre purposes than their architect designed
But of all materials, Wright saw wood as one
of the most intimate of materials and especially admired how the Japanese
applied it to buildings. Instead of cutting down a tree entirely which was in
the way, he built his family house so the tree trunk and wood branches were
inside. GallonLetter's editor has often thought that when politicians make laws,
someone will find a way around them and the development of Oak Park is one
example. Now a suburb of Chicago, it was called Oak Park because of the oak
trees which grew on a ridge/spit which once formed the shore of a glacial lake
called Lake Chicago. The Chicago Fire of 1871 killed several hundred people,
destroyed most of downtown Chicago, and left a third of the population homeless.
Loss of property was estimated to be about a billion in today's dollars. For the
Great Rebuilding, Chicago passed laws requiring fire proof building materials
which were not only more expensive than wood. but some people didn't like them.
Although even in Chicago many ignored the rules, people also moved out of
Chicago such as to Oak Park which became a village where Wright and others built
a lot of houses from wood.
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Just look outside at the snow and you'll know
that there is no such thing as global warming was the theme of a letter to the
editor in our local city paper. This idea that as long as we have snow in
winter, we don't have to worry about global warming is a too often-repeated
message by climate sceptics. The snow dump in Buffalo, New York beginning
November 17, 2014 was an epic event in the city's snowy history, according to
the US National Weather Service. This could be reassuring to those who think
their conclusion reached by a glance out the window can trump decades of
scientifically collected climate data. Snow accumulated over 2 metres in some
areas in Buffalo although this was highly variable with some areas only a few
kilometres away receiving only a few inches. For those promoting the idea that
any snow equals "Don't Worry, Be Happy" about climate change, the science may be
less assuring. In a warmer world, global mean precipitation increases, but with
a lot of variations with some regions receiving more and others less. In some
colder areas, that could mean more snow falling there rather than
Climate Change Report
In the 2014 update on responding to climate
change in New York, the state government report includes a discussion on lake
effect snow which can result in heavy snow events in a single storm affecting
places downwind of the Great Lakes and to a lesser extent, the Finger Lakes.
Buffalo gets snowfall from Lake Erie. The report says, "Annual ice cover has
decreased 71 percent on the Great Lakes since 1973; models suggest this decrease
will lead to increased lake-effect snow in the next couple of decades through
greater moisture availability (Burnett et al. 2003). By mid-century, lake-effect
snow will generally decrease as temperatures below freezing become less frequent
(Kunkel et al. 2002). The high ice extent of the 2013-2014 winter highlights the
fact that natural variability is expected to continue, even as long-term trends
gradually shift the statistics in favor of low-ice winters."
The Burnett study from Colgate University
reported in Science Daily November 2004 compared snowfall in Great Lakes and
non-Great Lakes areas concluding that for the foreseeable future years at least,
warming will produce more snow downwind of the Great Lakes rather than less.
Researchers studied snowfall data for areas in the Great Lakes and outside that
region and concluded that the amount of snowfall had increased significantly in
the Great Lakes region since the 1930s but not in non-Great Lake regions. Global
warming increases the water temperature of the Great Lakes creating a bigger gap
between air and water temperature which can lead to snowfall if the air is cold
enough. The authors suggest that more research on the issue of how relatively
small changes on the global/regional scale could have a bigger than expected
impact on local areas is justified because municipalities could face large costs
for snow removal, risk flooding and for effects on important activities such as
Chapter 26 of the 5th assessment report (2014)
of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC focuses on North America
(Mexico, US and Canada): "North America’s climate has changed and some
societally relevant changes have been attributed to anthropogenic causes (very
high confidence). ... Recent climate changes and individual extreme events
demonstrate both impacts of climate related stresses and vulnerabilities of
exposed systems (very high confidence). ... Observed climate trends in North
America include an increased occurrence of severe hot weather events over much
of the USA, decreases in frost days, and increases in heavy precipitation over
much of North America (high confidence).” Some of the risks assessed depend on
what the world will do to reduce emissions; a global warming of 4 deg C is
likely to cause most of the south of North America to have decreased annual
precipitation while more precipitation is expected in the northern half of the
Examples of possible outlooks which include
- earlier peak flow of snowmelt runoff.
Snowmelt occurs over a shorter season starting earlier than in the past.
Increased flooding due to climate change is projected for some areas.
- declines in amount of water stored in some
areas which receive snow: spring snowpack, streams and Western US and
- HRmore frequent low-snow years.
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RESTAURANT: DEFINITELY NOT HOME COOKING
While in Chicago, GallonLetter's editor went
to moto, a restaurant offering avant-garde cuisine, a multiple course meal at
more than we tend to pay but the reason we went was that in view of our last
feature on edible packaging, the restaurant had an edible menu. It turned out
that they "had evolved” since the edible menu was offered so we couldn't eat
anything normally inedible but the rest of the experience was unique, with
service at the level of choreography and food courses with intriguing names such
as Which came first?, Fallen Log, and Shades of Red. The dessert Toasted
Marshmallow came with its own tabletop campfire. Some of the food was local e.g.
each of the tables had containers with sprouts which were cut for one of the
courses called Grow Room but local isn't the key feature as moto's web page
lists other priorities: "Dining at moto is like actively engaging in a
multi-sensory dining experience unlike any other around the world. The moto
kitchen serves as a state of the art canvas for Chef Farina and his gifted team
to combine high-tech equipment and intricate techniques with exotic, sustainable
and seasonally conscious ingredients from around the world. While our vision in
gastronomy may at some times appear to be a note taken out of a far out
science-fiction novel, the magnificent flavors and extreme attention to detail
for each moto dish are indeed very real." At the end, the two of us were the
only ones to be offered and given a tour of the kitchen and
Texture was an important feature and a number
of dishes contained various crispy vegetables and mushrooms, crunchy but not
tasting as if they were loaded with fat. When we got back home, we tried a
couple of versions of our own crispifying food using an oven already on for
cooking the meal. We don't have the special equipment, range of food or the
skill of the chefs at moto but it was fun. Enoki mushrooms mixed with a little
bit of oil turned out only partially crispy but made a nice topping on the
oven-roasted dinner. Daikon radish chips tended to burn mostly faster than they
turned crispy but our kale chips were a great success.
Oven 350 deg
Take half a bunch of kale (organic, local or
both) and wash thoroughly.
Remove leaves from stalks by cutting or
Cut or tear up leaves into pieces onto a
strainer or salad spinner. Spin or pat dry. Pieces of a more uniform size help
to ensure they get done at the same time but it doesn't seem to matter that
much. The leaves should be as dry as possible.
Toss the kale pieces with a bit of oil. 1 tsp
of oil for a cookie tray of kale should be enough. To avoid using another bowl,
we tossed the kale pieces directly on the cookie tray which helps to add some
oil to the tray. Toss as thoroughly as possible so the little bit of oil covers
as much surface area of the leaves as possible. Too much oil , however, can make
for soggy chips.
Layer the leaves on the tray as thinly as
Sprinkle a bit of salt if you use salt.
Bake for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice or
if there is room just turn the tray around. Just check to make sure they are not
burning but they should be crisp before removal from the oven
After removing from the oven, leave for a few
minutes to crisp up some more. Eat warm or cold but if storing e.g. in a glass
jar with a lid, let cool first.
Kale is a good winter local food as it is
tough enough to survive a few snowfalls and we will continue to steam it just as
we usually do but it was fun to be inspired by the innovative chefs at moto to
try a little experimentation.
(1) Kale stalks get too chewy when baked
without liquid so we cut them up and added to a container in the freezer for
later cooking for soup stock, called by some “Trash Soup.”
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If you enjoy Gallon Environment Letter or find
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