Zero Watts or Zero Waste?

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So much hoopla was spent on turning off our lights for an hour, so that we could sit in the dark and atone for all of our sins as a culture of waste.

I think University of Guelph professor Ross McKitrick summed it up best by saying:

“Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness. By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity.”

It’s true, we don’t turn off our panel to our house to simulate a real blackout do we?  No the fridge stays plugged in.  We don’t cut the power to hospitals do we?  So there is a marginal inconvenience, but not one of any significance.

Awareness is not raised, it is simply sustained by those who are already aware.  Perhaps even diminished by those who are fed up with flawed rituals that serve no purpose but to spread awareness to those who are already aware.

If the question is how do we go about providing continuous reliable electricity EarthHour does nothing to bring people together to recognize how we go about finding a solution. 

If you have an hour observed by, conceivably, a large number of people, I expect there could be a much greater purpose served than having everyone sit in the dark.

I’m not in anyway saying that we shouldn’t be doing more to conserve energy, in fact we should be doing a lot more.

But turning off the lights for the sheer symbolism seems like a Darwinian way of raising awareness about such a huge issue now doesn’t it?

It got me thinking about waste, real waste, and real methods for reducing it.

My column this week was about re-using items and you can read it here:

V11N22P04.pdf
Download this file

Re-using items seems to be the lost R in the 3 Rs.

Consumerism doesn’t encourage it at all, instead it drives us to replace stuff at a rapid and consistent pace.  It’s style is outdated.  There is something new and improved.  Get rid of what you have.  Upgrade now!

What is considered old and not useful to some is exactly the opposite for someone else who may be looking for that item.

The trick seems to be tightening the connection between the one casting off and the one in search.

Yes there are the usual suspects for donating unwanted items: Goodwill, Salvation Army and a slew of thrift stores and bins are available for donations.

Charities like Diabetes even arrange pickups from your porch which add an extra level of convenience, I use them once a month.

This is one area where the internet has made such connectivity easier.

Sites like KiJiJi: http://toronto.kijiji.ca/f-Classifieds-W0QQAdTypeZ2QQPriceAlternativeZ3
and Craigslist : http://toronto.en.craigslist.ca/zip/  make it easy to post items, complete with pictures, for those that are interested.

I have used both sites, and both found and given away some most excellent items. 

My personal favorite Freecycle.  There is a shared Aurora/Newmarket group here: http://groups.freecycle.org/AuroraNewmarketFreecycle/posts/all

They may take a little elbow grease to shine up, or fix the odd part, but then they are good as new, and often last just as long as a newly purchased item.  Sometimes the items are brand new with their manufacturers tags and packaging, they were the wrong thing for whoever happened to come into owning them.

By reusing items one saves both the energy to dispose of or recycle them, it also saves the energy of making a replacement item.

Not everything can be re-used, but a majority of things can be if you’re creative and diligent enough.

To find proof of being creative when it comes to recycling what can’t be reused and diverting it from landfill I didn’t have to look farther than my own extended family.

Jaimie Carnevale has been moving Ontario Place to zero waste for some time now. 
It has been so successful that another family member’s restaurant has followed suit.
You can read about her efforts and their payoffs in this Toronto Star article here:
http://www.thestar.com/business/companies/article/952979–going-green-benefits-bottom-line

Jaimie explains the zero waste initiatives well in this video.

It is true that Zero Waste ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero_waste ) is a bit of a misnomer, as trying to achieve a 0 figure is from a practical standpoint almost impossible.  However Ms. Carnevale needs to be commended for her efforts which have actually accomplished a viable and sustainable life-cycle for traditional businesses and government institutions to handle their waste.

None of that is easy, and none of it could have been done by taking the Earth Hour approach of sitting in the dark.

All the more power to people like Jaimie.

Don’t give into the dark side, keep your lights on because we need more people like her, to empower others, with bright ideas that we can plug into our electrifying future.

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