“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”
Like many others out there I am suffering from climate anxiety, and yes, it’s a thing. In fact, there is even a 9 step program for it available in some cities.
I sometimes feel like there is very little I can do to help reverse the fairly dire situation we have gotten ourselves into. Right now, people on the front line, such as scientists, politicians, and civil servants, are working on developing adaptations to climate change. There are small island countries, such as the Maldives, in the Pacific Ocean whose governments have bought land on nearby mainland for the inevitable time that their homeland is under water; officials from cities along the shores of the east coast of the United States are regularly visiting Holland to take lessons on how they have adapted to living below sea level. » Read more: Drawdown – A Playbook for the Climate Anxious
Last summer, we spent our holiday on Cape Cod. The weather was spectacular and we spent a few days exploring the many beaches, bike trails and restaurants. One of the stores I found in Hyannis was a small, little boutique, called Shift Eco Boutique, which, naturally, I had to go into. The owner, Amanda Converse, happened to be working that day so we got to chatting about sustainability, running a small business and living on the Cape in the off-season (a lot less traffic, that’s for sure!). I asked if she’d mind doing an interview about her store and she graciously agreed. If you have a chance to go into the store if you’re around the Cape, I highly recommend it. Everything Amanda stocks has an ethical, eco label, which means you can buy with good conscience. I interviewed her about her work, her store, and her mission to support local businesses.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting on a panel at an integrated design charette in Ottawa, given by Enbridge Gas Distribution through their Savings By Design program. Sustainable Buildings Canada organizes the sessions and provides the expertise. We work as a team to help developers understand how to make their buildings at least 25% more energy efficient than the Ontario Building Code. In addition to that, we provide information on how to make buildings more sustainable in general. I am invited to talk about indoor air quality and construction and demolition waste management, while others are there to discuss other sustainability subjects. Last week was the first time I was introduced to Safe Wings Ottawa, an organization whose mission is to educate the public and prevent bird-building collisions. It was an eye-opening presentation for me, and I am now a convert. In fact, since then, I have been evaluating buildings on whether or not they are bird friendly. Anouk Hoedeman from Safe Wings gave a straightforward and enlightening presentation on birds and buildings.
So, what kills more birds – buildings or wind turbines? Wind turbines cause about 600,000 bird deaths per year in North America while buildings cause approximatelyone billion bird deaths (Note that Anouk also commented that cats are estimated to cause 1.4 billion bird deaths, however, the caveat is that many of those birds counted may have already hit a building and were already dead or at least vulnerable). » Read more: Do Wind Turbines or Buildings Kill More Birds?
Photo By Ashley Felton (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In December while attending the ConstructCanada show, I went to a few seminars that I really enjoyed. At one in particular, I was so enthusiastic, I got a bit carried away and, er, interrupted the panel with my own stories, questions and conumdrums. The panel was about waste produced by the construction industry, and, if you’ve followed this blog at all, you know waste is one of my biggest pet peeves. In fact, it’s not really a pet peeve, it’s a down right BIG peeve, a major peeve, one I find so frustrating, I just want to fix it all, right now!
Anyway…one of the panelists was Renee Gratton. She is the President and co-founder of the Construction Resources Initiative Council, a group of non-partisan volunteers from the construction industry who have come together to address the growing waste problem in construction and demolition. Here’s something you may be surprised to hear: In Canada, while consumers have been doing an increasingly good job at reducing the amount of material they send to landfill, industrial, commercial and institutional operations have not fared so well. In fact, they have been progressively increasing the amount of material going to landfill. Since industry accounts for two-thirds of all waste, this is a pretty important area to address. On top of that, Canadians may generate the most garbage per capita in the world. Wow, there’s a statistic we should want to reverse!
According to the CRI Council website, Stats Can noted that in 2008, of all the waste sent to landfill, 75% of it still had value — as in it could have been reused, recycled, repurposed or repaired. When you read a number like that, the goal of zero waste by 2030 doesn’t seem quite as unrealistic as you might have originally thought.
Achieving zero waste in the construction industry isn’t going to be an easy task. However, as Renee recounted at the seminar, a lot of waste reduction has to do with changing our mindset and perspectives. It’s about designing buildings better, increasing resource efficiency and using materials that can be reused or recycled at end of life. The council’s short-term goal is to get three things going:
Defining the goal — aiming for zero construction renovation and demolition waste to landfill by 2030,
Overcoming inertia — engaging, educating and enabling people and their businesses as to why change is important, and
Taking the first few steps. In this case, the council is calling to action all stakeholders to take the Mission 2030 Pledge and play their part in how building waste is viewed and dealt with, through a fundamental and strategic change management framework.
As the organization is newly established and completely volunteer-run, the website is continually being updated. It provides information on why reducing waste is critical to our planet’s future, along with support on how and where to begin. As the council becomes more established it will also begin to offer its members workshops and educational material on how to implement change. The latest support tool is an app called Waste Saver for your mobile phone (iphone or android), to help you locate companies in your neighbourhood who will recover it, who is supporting this initiative as well as provide references and address frequently asked questions. While the app still being populated, the more people use it, the more valuable a tool it becomes for everyone.
If you are a contractor, building owner or manager, I encourage you to take a look at the website and start thinking about how you can reduce the amount of waste you send to landfill. It might be as simple as stopping by the ReStore on your way to the dump and dropping off usable construction materials, or using Craigslist or Kijiji to find someone who wants what you don’t. There are plenty of ways to prevent materials from ending up in landfill, but until you’re used to it, it takes some planning, effort and a little research. If you don’t have a resolution yet for 2014, why not make it waste reduction?
Okay, I have a confession to make: I’d never heard of 1% for the Planet before this week. Then, through Facebook, I saw that they were in Montreal holding a presentation, so I signed up to go and hear what they have to say.
While this particular presentation was strictly about water (and so I thought the entire organization was about water), it turns out that 1% for the Planet is all about encouraging companies large and small to dedicated 1% of their sales to environmental causes around the world. Now, 1% of sales may sound like a small number but when you consider that a) it is sales and not profit, the number suddenly gets bigger, and b) some of the companies involved are Naya water and Patagonia, the amount of money being committed to environmental groups are in the $100,000s to millions of dollars.
I spoke with Grace from 1% for the Planet about their mission. The organization was founded by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Craig Matthews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies. They are both passionate environmentalists who knew that in order for business to be successful in the long-run, protecting the environment is essential.
Member companies now donate 1% of their sales to one or many of any of the listed environmental organizations that are approved by 1% for the Planet. If you’re worried that that just means big global environmental organizations, fear not, there are as many small, local groups as there are larger ones. For example, we heard presentations about conservation projects protecting Quebec’s freshwater ecosystem from both The David Suzuki Foundation Quebec Chapter and Fondation de la faune du Quebec. Perusing through the organization’s list of member environmental organizations you will see small local groups as well as large, global groups.
How it works: A company commits 1% of its annual sales to give to environmental causes. It becomes a member of 1% for the Planet. The organization audits the company’s books to make sure the company is donating its committed percentage and the company receives the 1% logo to use on all its printed and other media material. 1% for the planet survives off of membership fees and fundraising, as it too is an environmental not for profit organization.
As a consumer you can support these companies and their efforts by buying their products. If your company already contributes to environmental causes, consider joining this group and wearing your badge proudly. Even if you’re an independent or small business you can join this group. Jack Johnson is a member and we were treated to a performance by Chris Velan, also a member, before and after the presentation.
For the most part we rely on third party organizations to determine what is and isn't a "green building material." The only time we might not is when products are locally produced or no third party green designation is available for the product.