Archive for ◊ October, 2010 ◊

• Sunday, October 31st, 2010

This isn’t news to many readers, but it is still worth repeating. A vegetarian diet is far more sustainable (and healthier) than a diet filled with meat.

I am not advocating a strict vegetarian diet – just the awareness that eating meat is a luxury, like owning a car or flying to Europe every year. Eating meat on a regular basis is not sustainable for everyone on the globe.

Locally, there are several restaurants on the Plateau that offer very tasty vegetarian, faux-meat meals: Cru D’Essence, Aux Vivres, and Chu Chai, just to name a few. For more ideas and locations, see the Google map of Montreal Vegetarian restaurants.

Source: Ope’s

It requires 700 gallons of water to produce one pound of chicken. Instead, farmers could produce 16 pounds of broccoli, or up to 20 pounds of other grains and vegetables… Also, it takes 8 times the amount of gasoline/fossil fuel for production of one pound of chicken as compared to one pound of protein from tofu.

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” - Albert Einstein

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• Friday, October 29th, 2010
Lufa rooftop gardens

Architect's rendering of Lufa rooftop gardens

Now, this is progress!

Again, Montreal leads the world in sustainable solutions. Other worldwide firsts include CommunAuto car sharing and Bixi bicycle sharing.

Growing veggies in a population-dense, urban area, year-round is a great idea and should especially appeal to the many “foodies” in the city who are particular about their greens.

Source: Montreal Gazette

If all goes well, urban locavores will have a year-round source of non-GMO, pesticide-and-herbicide-free produce by early 2011.

Lufa Farms, a Montreal company, plans to unveil the world’s first commercial-scale rooftop greenhouse atop of a two-storey office building near Marche Centrale.

The nearly $2-million, 31,000 square-foot project should be completed before the end of the year and is expected to be ready for planting in January.

But it won’t be alone in its field for long. New York Citybased Gotham Greens intends to open a 15,000 square-foot rooftop greenhouse in Brooklyn in 2011.

Lufa Farms co-founder Kurt Lynn said the company wants to shorten the distance between the people who grow food and the people who buy it. He said some of the produce found in Quebec supermarkets travels more than 1,500 kilometres after being harvested.

“In our view, that is the cause of most of the problems with food today,” he said, consumers are often limited to vegetables and fruits that can withstand weeks of travel and processing without spoiling.

“You end up with tomatoes that don’t taste like tomatoes.”

Lynn said that because his firm intends to ship produce within 24 hours of harvesting, he has the option of selecting more fragile -and often tastier -varieties of produce.

To that end, Lufa Farms has been working with McGill University plant science and nutrition professors to help choose the tastiest and most nutritious strains to plant.

The produce will not be certified organic, but it will be pesticide and herbicide-free and it will not be genetically modified, Lynn said.

He said the firm will use hydroponic farming techniques to create an optimal growing environment.

“You give (the plants) what they want -and they love it,” he said, explaining that a tomato plant in the greenhouse could reach 12 to 15 feet in height.

Targeted customers are the general public and restaurants.

Customers will be able to buy produce “baskets” on the company’s website, which will be delivered to group drop off points or will be available for pickup. (Farms that participate in Quebec’s popular Equiterre program also use a basket delivery system.)

Owen Rose, head of the board of Montreal’s Urban Ecology Centre -an organization that promotes green roofs -said “the idea is great.”

Rose said a rooftop greenhouse accomplishes many things -the promotion of urban agriculture, the provision of food security and it is good for the local economy. Moreover, it puts “green and leafy vegetables in the forefront” making them “even trendy” and encourages people to be aware of and to eat vegetables.

He said the greenhouse could be a good marketing tool for Montreal restaurant owners trying to demonstrate local responsibility. They could promote certain dishes as having “grown in Montreal” ingredients.

• Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Source: Montreal Gazette

“I want to eat well -meaning organic, local and additive-free -and I think everybody should be able to eat well. That’s the general idea of food security -that everybody should have the right to healthy, nutritious food,” states Cameron Stiff, coordinator for the Concordia Food Systems Project.

The project addresses aspects of food security at Concordia through applied research, student internships and partnerships with other campus organizations. This summer, they helped Concordia’s vegetarian soup kitchen, the People’s Potato, transition their vegetable garden to a permaculture (naturally sustainable) design. Project members worked with Concordia’s student union to develop a business plan to transform an under-utilized lounge space into a local cafe and food security resource library.

Robyn Rees, 28, has created a Google map of Montreal pinpointing the city’s sustainability-minded restaurants, markets, food-security organizations and area farms. The map was launched at the Concordia Sustainable Food Festival held in mid-September. A who’s who of the local food movement -many of them represented on Rees’s map -gathered on Concordia’s Hall Building terrace for the event.

• Monday, October 25th, 2010

Green Car WashIf you must own a car, this looks like a good way to keep it clean and in good shape. Few people realize that washing our cars DIY-style is one of the most unsustainable and damaging chores we can do.

Unlike household waste water that enters sewers or septic systems and undergoes treatment before it is discharged into the environment, what runs off from your car goes right into storm drains — and eventually into rivers, streams, creeks and wetlands where it poisons aquatic life and wreaks other ecosystem havoc.

Source: The Suburban (page 124)

This summer, three 20-year-old university students from NDG – Thierry Nazon, Anthony Elmaleh and Ovidiu Poienaru – put their entrepreneurial spirits to good use and started their own company – an ecological residential car wash called Biotonet.

Their system uses no soap or chemical products and consumes only five liters of water, compared to the 150-litre industry average. And they’ll do it in your driveway. All you have to do is call for an appointment.

Biotonet’s phone number: 514-903-9917

• Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Sustainable FashionThe PR-heavy fashion industry rarely defines the term “sustainable”.

What does sustainability mean in the ultra-disposable world of fashion where it is often the last consideration in a person’s purchase decision process?

Ultimately, sustainability is not something that can be seen easily from the outside. How do you know if that garment she’s wearing was made from local, organic cotton, rather than from imported, conventionally grown fibres made in a sweatshop?

You don’t and there’s the rub.

Sustainable fashion is nearly impossible to market unless a brand image is attached to it. Brands need to cultivate an image of sustainable production processes that a person can trust when going to a store. Patagonia may be the best that I know of that does this, although it is mostly a very expensive type of hippie brand that the article below laments.

Patagonia makes a big deal about their environmental programs and corporate social responsibility programs, so I naturally assume that they are on the leading edge of doing good for the planet and me. They are sustainable without having to actually define what that is.

For the sustainable fashion movement to stick, brands need to carry the torch forward. Whether that means individual designers or whole lines of clothing, the key is the ability for people to quickly and easily recognize a sustainable article of clothing much like they can with organic produce.

Source: Montreal Gazette

Indeed, most sustainable fashionistas are proud of their earthiness, but are keen to see more high-style clothing grace the industry. It’s part of an effort to ditch that hippie stigma.

“We want to enjoy dressing up; we don’t want to wear hemp all the time,” said Alexandra Schwartz of Studio Breathe, a sleek-looking Montreal yoga and karate studio. On Nov. 19, Schwartz held a charity auction for the David Suzuki Foundation to promote ethical consumerism.

Schwartz agrees that, aside from a few cute frilly tops, Montreal’s sustainable-fashion movement tends to produce lots of casual T-shirts and cozy sweaters. Because many of these looks can be granola-heavy, “terms like ‘organic’ can get a negative reaction,” she said.

Schwartz also believes customers are wary of eco-clothing because of “greenwashing” – whereby companies advertise items as eco-friendly when they have only a small percentage of organic cotton mixed with a bulk load of petroleum-based ingredients. They may also make other eco-claims they can’t back up.

In the hopes of giving sustainable consumerism a fresh start, Schwartz has adopted the “blue” philosophy of Adam Werbach, the former head of the Sierra Club and now CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S, the ethical division of the ad agency. Werbach’s “blue” ideology stresses the ethical features of consumerism — such as buying a pair of those charitable Toms Shoes — rather than just focusing on the “green” items, such as organic cotton.

Fashion first

Eva Anastasiu is an ex-Montrealer living in Paris who runs with three other partners. The site, which was launched two years ago, has more than 1,000 subscribers to its newsletter, and more than 300 sustainable brands listed.

A regular at Paris’s Ethical Fashion Show, Anastasiu believes the industry’s mission should be to reach out to the global fashion community.

“The goal is to have more fashion designers to go eco-(style) — not necessarily more humanitarians,” Anastasiu said. While she’s all for former Peace Corps workers launching their indie fashion labels, she thinks designers with proven talent should be recruited into the sustainable-fashion movement. That way, they can help improve the industry’s style and image, which is key to igniting an even larger consumer trend. In turn, even more corporations will have to become responsible.

She sees looks becoming more upscale: Last year, John Patrick Organics was nominated for the Council of Fashion Designers of America award. This year, two more sustainable-fashion designers, Monique Pean and Natalie “Alabama” Chanin, were nominated.

“All this organic culture is a heritage of hippie culture; it’s just where it started,” Anastasiu said. “Now it’s taken up by people who are trained as designers and more fashionably interested brands.”

Bigger brands such as American Apparel should also be recognized for their vertically integrated business model and fair working conditions, Anastasiu said. “And they have quite a bit of organic cotton,” she added. Anastasiu lists H&M as another company with corporate-responsibility initiatives.

Still, Anastasiu acknowledges that bigger companies tend to be about “fast fashion” — fast food for your wardrobe, based on manufacturing and selling cheap, disposable clothes. This runs counter to the sustainable-fashion philosophy, which is all about good quality, longer-term buys from smaller, up-cycled vintage stores, and sustainable-fashion shops.

“A lot of eco-fashion designers are amazing people: They go to farms, to factories, and have their noses everywhere,” she said. “I admire them so much, and I really think their work should be promoted.”

• Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Come join us at the NDG Food Depot on Wednesday, October 20th at 7:00 pm for a free movie screening of the acclaimed documentary “FRESH: the movie”.  2121 Oxford, NDG, Montreal, Qc

FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across North America who are re-inventing our food system.

Guest Speakers:
Kelly Krauter, ActionCommuniterre
Stephen Homer, Zephyr Farms
Satoshi Ikeda, Concordia University
A talk and discussion will follow the film.
Category: Food Security  | One Comment
• Monday, October 18th, 2010

Transit Oriented DevelopmentA new way of designing cities – away from the car-dependent suburban model – is urgently needed as gasoline gets more and more expensive. TOD is a fancy way of saying: build housing near public transportation hubs.

Source: Caia Hagel, Future Living, Edition 9

Transit oriented developments (TOD) is not a term in Europe (editor’s note: or North America). Small geographical areas, surplus populations, and the unique opportunity after 1945 to “rebuild a bright new world” has made vertical, multi use, mixed income, train dependent, often architecturally innovative building, a natural phenomenon. A similar phenomenon is true in Asia.

In Australia, the traditional urban organisation has followed the “American Dream” model of the 1950s. That is horizontal sprawl across a vast landscape, resulting today in either leafy suburbs featuring large houses and large cars, two or more to a family, which link them to the city via congested highways; or, more detrimentally, suburb ghettos where poverty and social problems resist growth. The British colony cities of North America, Australia and New Zealand were built around dependence on cars, gasoline and oil, and homogeneity.

But this model is proving itself obsolete. On the one side, long traffic jams and commute time, high oil prices and ecological mandates have made the cost of living of this old model both economically unviable and ecologically unsustainable. On the other, perpetuating isolated pockets of lower income and culturally specific living circumstances isolates an aspect of society that through greater integration can foster movement, interaction, safety and prosperity. So what Europeans and Asians have had to implement to survive population explosion is catching on in Australia as a future thinking model of better living.

TOD is the proposed answer to this. They are multi use, mixed income vertical buildings whose axes are a well serviced rail line and communal green spaces that encourage walking, cycling, community interaction, and diversity.

• Thursday, October 14th, 2010

The biggest obstacle to a new Earth, to a  new economy and to a new source of renewable energy is clinging to our rigid view of how the world must be. If we can open our minds to the possible, the universe will provide the solutions.

Source: The Atlantic

Mild-mannered and bespectacled, Johnson opened his presentation by describing the idea behind the JTEC. The device, he explained, would split hydrogen atoms into protons and electrons, and in so doing would convert heat into electricity. Most radically, it would do so without the help of any moving parts. Johnson planned to tell his audience that the JTEC could produce electricity so efficiently that it might make solar power competitive with coal, and perhaps at last fulfill the promise of renewable solar energy. But before he reached that part of his presentation, Richard Carlin, then the head of the Office of Naval Research’s mechanics and energy conversion division, rose from his chair and dismissed Johnson’s brainchild outright. The whole premise for the device relied on a concept that had proven impractical, Carlin claimed, citing a 1981 report co-written by his mentor, the highly regarded electrochemist Robert Osteryoung. Go read the Osteryoung report, Carlin said, and you will see…

Johnson believed otherwise. He felt that what had doomed his presentation to the Office of Naval Research—and others as well—was a collective failure of imagination

“Lonnie’s using temperature differences to create pressure gradients,” says Paul Werbos, an energy expert and program director of the National Science Foundation. “Only instead of using those pressure gradients to move an axle or a wheel, he’s forcing ions through a membrane.” Werbos, who spent months vetting the JTEC and eventually awarded Johnson’s team a $75,000 research grant in 2006, describes the JTEC as “a fundamentally new way, a fundamentally well-grounded way, to convert heat to electricity.” Regarding its potential to revolutionize energy production on a global scale, he says, “It has a darn good chance of being the best thing on Earth.”

• Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Highlights of the plan include funding for:

  • more bike paths
  • green promenades through the most densely populated sectors
  • charging stations for electric cars
  • curb-side pickup of kitchen compost for buildings with less than 8 units (sorry apartment dwellers!)

Source: Montreal Gazette

Mayor Gérald Tremblay on Tuesday unveiled a new sustainable-development plan for Montreal that will focus on improving air quality and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, conserving water and reducing garbage sent to landfills, and making neighbourhoods more livable to stem the exodus of residents off the island.

The five-year plan, which Tremblay said will cost $1 million in the first year, was adopted by the city’s executive committee Tuesday morning.

It includes a goal of cutting polluting greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 per cent in 2020 compared to 1990 levels, a target that is even more ambitious than the provincial government’s, which is 20 per cent by 2020.

View the city’s full plan.

• Saturday, October 09th, 2010

Even though this video was made by a large, multi-national food corporation (Unilever), it makes all the points about sustainable food production. It hits home the point that cheap, imported food has hidden costs that ultimately weaken our communities.

Why was Quebec excluded from the video?