Posted: August 24th, 2008 | Author: James Glave | Filed under: Almost Green, bottom, Marketing, Waste | 4 Comments »
File this under ‘sad and funny at the same time.’ Here’s an embossed aluminum pen that my parents recently received in the mail at their house; a promotional-products company sent it to me, hoping to score a new account.
The info on the ballpoint dates from a few years ago when, for the space of a couple months between real-estate transactions, I temporarily moved my family in with my parents who live in a suburb just east of Vancouver. At the time, I was doing some contract gear-writing work for a since-shuttered Conde Nast men’s shopping magazine called CARGO.
I got a good chuckle out of the fact that some far-off privately held customer-leads database thinks that this once-glossy title is not only still in business, but headquartered in Burnaby.
Then it sunk in: How many thousands of these things went out on spec to similarly obsolete firms and addresses? And beyond that, how much logo-crested crap is presently churning its way through the warehouses and shipping channels, into the grateful hands of business people and consumers, who extract whatever utility and joy they can before ultimately handing these items off to the landfills?
Quite a lot, it turns out. According to the Promotional Products Association International, a trade group representing the fine people who make, import, distribute and sell mouse pads, stress balls, magnets, umbrellas, footballs, calendars, plastic coffee mugs, nylon tote bags, watches, ball caps, this is a $19.4 billion industry.
Sigh. If you believe the group’s research, consumer demand keeps the schwag engine running at top speed. Apparently, lots of us still love getting something for “free.” Utlimately all this marketing momentum needs to move into the digital realm, the atoms need to turn into bits. But when’s that going to happen?
How long can this madness continue? Anyone care to weigh in here?
Posted: August 14th, 2008 | Author: James Glave | Filed under: Almost Green, Shopping | Tags: almostgreen | No Comments »
Holy cats! ALMOST GREEN is now on sale across North America (Amazon.com sales rank as of a minute ago: #485,984,987,098). To celebrate, we’re throwing a launch party Friday August 22 where the whole saga began—spectacular Bowen Island, B.C. Canada. Expect live satellite linkups to and from 34 major metropolitan markets—each of which will be hosting its own "carbon neutral" ALMOST GREEN kickoff parties.
Ok, most of that isn’t true. We will be having a launch event, but there won’t be any dish trucks or velvet ropes. Instead, I am hoping to round up a few bottles of local wine (but not water), maybe a box of chips or two. (Not those yucky cardboard kinds, tho.) If I can get my hands on an LCD projector, there’s even potential behind-the-scenes slide-show fun. At the very least you can listen to me read from the book, and — ahem, no pressure or anything, but maybe even buy it? Hey, just putting that out there.
What do you get from me? How about a stellar door prize. How does a free night in The Eco-Shed sound?
Note: If you’ll be there to shoot and share images, please tag them with "almostgreen."
Details below. Hope to see you there!
ALMOST GREEN GLOBAL NATIONAL LAUNCH PARTY
Friday August 22, 7pm
The Gallery at Artisan Square [MAP]
Bowen Island, B.C
View Larger Map
Brought to you by Phoenix and Greystone Books .
Posted: August 11th, 2008 | Author: James Glave | Filed under: Agriculture, Almost Green, Food | Tags: bowfeast08 almostgreen local food | 2 Comments »
There’s a lot of culinary chatter around the house these days, most of it coming from the direction of my wife, Elle — a kind of Tasmanian-Devil whirlwind of organizational energy.
Here, a few choice updates from the land of the carbon-reduced diet:
- Elle is in the process of turning OneDayBowen –the grassroots green group that got its start on our couch, as documented in ALMOST GREEN –into a local non-profit organization. The new group will dedicate itself to on-the-ground solutions to global challenges in areas such as energy and food. Her first project out of the gate is Bowfeast, a single-day celebration of local eating . On Saturday August 16, you’ll find her at the Bowfeast Farmer’s Market in the cove, steps from the ferry dock here on the island. We’ve only got a dozen or so farmers here on this island; with thin soils and plenty of hungry deer, it’s a challenging place to grow food, for sure. But you can meet seven of those farmers in one place, plus microfarmers selling fruit and veg picked that morning from their own food gardens. A good time
- Bowfeast isn’t just the farmer’s market, though. It’s all about encouraging people to eat as locally as possible for the day, and to share the summer harvest with friends. We’ll be hosting a Bowfeast dinner for 17 in the garden at our place that night. Plus, if we host guests in the Eco-Shed that night, they’d be welcome to join us. A special deep-green Bowen evening, indeed
- Elle and I have joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture ) venture just getting started here on the island. This project is still very much early days, but has huge potential here.
- Finally, I got my hunting license yesterday. Some of you may have read some of my past work [note: link downloads a .pdf file] on this subject. Executive summary: I’d kill for some local venison. The season starts September 1; I’ve been practicing with my longbow and can still split an apple at 200 yards. Well, almost… Stay tuned.
Posted: August 1st, 2008 | Author: James Glave | Filed under: Almost Green, family, Habits, Plastic | Tags: plastic BPA food storage | 7 Comments »
I said goodbye to a few old friends this morning.
I dropped Sabrina and Duncan at day camp and continued on down the road to my community’s recycling depot. There, I walked up to the big green "mixed plastics" bin and tossed in my FridgeSmart stackables, Ziploc Twist n’ Locs and, perhaps most painful of all, my beloved half-cup-size Rubbermaid Servin’ Savers — indispensable snack-stashers that fit perfectly inside my kids’ lunch boxes.
All these little tubs are now gone, casualties of a recent pact between my wife and me to minimize the amount of time our family’s food spends inside plastic containers.
It was a watershed moment for the two of us — the latest stop in a journey that has begun to wander into territory that I once reserved for a class of people I once referred to as "eco-fruitcakes." It has taken us beyond social norms, outside the fuzzy boundaries of mainstream consumer behavior.
Go ahead and laugh
It’s now socially acceptable to forgo plastic bags at the store — even Ikea is calling them "so last year." But my Servin’ Savers purge represents a far more radical act.
I can hear you snickering out there, and I don’t blame you. As far as eco-resolutions go, this one is probably both ridiculous and futile. We know that the lion’s share of our food — yogurt, milk, berries, applesauce, nuts, cooking oil, you name it — is sold to us in plastic packaging. For decades, industry and government scientists have assured us these "food grade" pots, tubs, and sacks are completely benign.
They’re lightweight compared to glass — which means less of a carbon penalty from shipping — and of course they’re recyclable. And as a former Servin’ Savers evangelist, I know the convenience is unbeatable.
But here’s the thing, Mr. Industry and Ms. Government. I’ve been struggling with a few trust issues as of late.
You see, when Sabrina and Duncan were infants, we often fed them pumped breast milk that we warmed up inside polycarbonate Philips Avent plastic bottles — bottles that we recently learned were leaching bisphenol-A, or BPA.
Unless you’ve been living on Baffin Island for the past six months, you know that’s bad news. Earlier this year, Health Canada declared that chemical "toxic" and stated that there is "some concern for neural and behavioral effects in early stages of development" for low levels of exposure.
On its Avent website, Philips today touts a redesigned BPA-free baby bottle that the company assures us it is developing "because we know that needs sometimes change."
Needs do change, yes. So do paradigms. And the thing is, I’m presently undergoing a shift so foreign and clumsy that it feels like puberty all over again. It boils down to this, Philips: I don’t trust you anymore. My consumer confidence has plummeted. In fact, it’s in the basement.
And it isn’t just you; I’m not tying this shift inside my head to this specific named chemical, this particular crisis-management episode. I’m not going to feel reassured when you switch over to a "safer" replacement that is equally convenient for me and profitable for you.
That weird plasticky taste
Oh I know, I know: The third-party research is solid; polypropylene and everything else with a number inside a triangle is perfectly safe. Plastic will remain a staple of our lives for many years to come. Hey, I’m touching it as I write this story.
But I don’t trust that science anymore, and as a result, I’m no longer going to eat off the stuff. I’m no longer able to brush aside the odd taste the water in my squeeze bottle assumes after it’s spent a hot day under my sea kayak’s deck rigging. I’m not going to microwave yesterday’s macaroni in the fresh-saver locking-lid container and then serve it up to my family. I’m not doing any of that anymore. This stuff is petroleum, and I’ve lost my enthusiasm for its endless miracles.
Maybe my Tupperware purge won’t mean a damn in the big scheme of things — petty acts of consumer disobedience don’t often cast so much as a ripple. But radical or not, Elle and I have set down some new ground rules around our place. Eventually we’ll get our hands on one of those Japanese stainless-steel lunch kits, but in the meantime, I’m packing Duncan and Sabrina’s lunch boxes with small glass mason jars and wax paper.
The wax paper is ok, but the jars suck. They’re heavy, and the counsellors at day camp are not very pleased to see my kids dealing with them on their field trip to the beach. After all, glass is a liability. It breaks.
I don’t know where this one is going, because the truth is, I don’t know who to trust. I find I’m running confidence problems in my head: I score one point to Canada’s new government for standing up to the Canadian Plastics Industry Association on this one — the lobbying has been intense. But then I dock two from that same agency for not telling me sooner, when I had two screaming babies around the house.
Please don’t paint me as a Luddite who would do away with life-saving medical devices and send us back to the oxen in the fields. It’s just nowhere near that clear-cut. Indeed, there are many scenarios where plastic is the more sustainable choice. I think of my lunch-kit reboot as the start of a personal investigation into my relationship with plastic; we can’t live without this stuff, but I wonder if maybe we can learn to live with less of it, or figure out how to deploy it more thoughtfully.
In the end, we only have our own gut to guide us on this stuff. And laugh if you will, but from here on out, mine is going to contain a few molecules less of Rubbermaid’s latest injection-molded god-knows-what
Originally published on The Tyee, August 1, 2008.