SAGE is a leading voice for a healthy and environmentally sustainable community.
What are your emissions?
Published in Lethbridge Herald
17 January 2020
We hear in the media a lot of talk about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but few of us know how we contribute or how to calculate them for our own lives. And since it was probably this New Year’s Resolution to learn, cut this out of The Herald and attach it to the fridge door.
Now, dig out your solar powered calculator and your utility bills (or phone your provider) and follow along:
Home heating (natural gas): Add up the GJs on your bill for the past year and multiply this number by 0.056 for your tonnes of GHGs.
For example, for a house that uses 120 GJ of natural gas over a year:
120 x 0.056 = 6.7 tonnes of GHGs.
Electricity: Add up the kWh for the year and multiply by 0.000688 for your tonnes of GHGs.
For example, for a house in Alberta that uses 7200 kWh of electricity over a year:
7200 x 0.000688 = 10.2 tonnes of GHGs.
Driving (gasoline): Multiply your gas mileage by the number of kilometers you drove in the past year and multiply by 0.0024 for your tonnes of GHGs.
For example, for a car that uses 12.1 litres per 100 kilometers driving 15,600 km last year:
12.1 x 15,600 / 100 = 1890 liters purchased. So, 1890 litres x 0.0024 = 4.5 tonnes.
For individual emissions, you can divide these numbers by the number of people living in the home or travelling in the car.
Food is tricky, but important.
Assume that you eat about 2600 calories a day, and according to Canadian statistics we waste about 40% from farm to fork. (Interestingly, one fifth of the total food produced is wasted in our homes). Our food is responsible for about 2.5 tonnes per person for a Canada Food Guide diet. This may be lower if you eat less meat or waste less food.
Now, what about your flying holiday?
Google the flying distance between your home and your destination. Let’s say Lethbridge to Madrid, which is a 15,700 km return flight. Multiply this total by 0.000111 for your individual GHG emissions. In this example, 15,700 x 0.000111 = 1.7 tonnes.
Adding it all up, with two people in the home, the personal GHG emission in our example is just about 15 tonnes per year. This number would actually be a little low, as it does not include all of our consumer items.
The published number for Canadians is 16.7 tonnes per year which includes everything we do inside and outside our homes. By comparison, the United States is 15.7 tonnes per person; China is 7.7 tonnes; European Union is 7.0 tonnes; and India is 1.8 tonnes.
For an expanded edition with links, See our Issues & Projects Page.
Ways to Waste Less Food
Published in Lethbridge Herald
17 December 2019
In Lethbridge, about half of the residential waste going to the landfill are organics, mainly food and lawn cuttings. Once disposed of in the landfill, organics contribute to methane emissions (a potent greenhouse gas) and the accumulation of toxic fluids in the landfill called leachate. But even worse is that the food you throw away also wastes valuable resources, beginning in the sea or on the farm until it reaches your belly.
About one fifth of the food you buy at the grocery store ends up in the trash. This costs you about $1700 each year, but it also costs our environment: wasting agricultural land to grow the food that ends up being thrown out; using fresh water to grow the food; over-use of fertilizers that end up in the rivers creating huge aquatic dead zones worldwide; herbicides and pesticides that disrupt soil ecosystems as well as negatively affecting insects, birds and animals; and waste of the energy used to package, transport and refrigerate the food before it arrives in your home.
It is roughly seven times better for the environment to use all the food you buy than composting the food you do throw away. But composting is the next best thing, as there are portions of the food you buy that simply cannot be used. Backyard composting is good, but municipal collection and industrial composting can compost many things that are not suitable for backyard technologies. Reduce first, compost as a last resort.
There are a number of things you can to do reduce food waste in your home. For those who have shopped while hungry, you will know that planning your meals and buying only what you need for those meals is a good start. You can improve by planning to use what you already have in the refrigerator. Use more of the plant, from root to stem. And all of those scraps you generate can be saved to make soup stock for another meal.
Organize your fridge so that you can see the food that will spoil more quickly. Freeze food that you may not use right away or, when you have an abundance, you can preserve or dehydrate food to be used later. Best before and expiry dates are general suggestions from the food manufacturer - do a sniff test, as it may still be good to use. If you are going to use a product right away, help your grocery store by buying the items on the shelf closer to the ‘best before’ date. Encourage your grocer to discount food that would otherwise be thrown away. If you have purchased or grown too much food, consider donating it to a food charity while it is still good.
Most people are pretty good at eating what they buy, but it is amazing how much goes to the trash anyway. For a lot of good tips, tools, and resources, visit wasteless.ca (a project of Environment Lethbridge).
For an expanded edition with links, See our Issues & Projects Page.
The Paradox of Plenty
Published in Lethbridge Herald as,
'Tale of the Resource Curse'
21 November 2019
The ‘paradox of plenty’ (or the ‘resource curse’) has been observed in regions that have an abundance of a non-renewable resource. The argument is that resource-rich regions are more likely to experience low economic growth in the long term. The International Monetary Fund considers a region ‘resource-rich’ when 20% of the fiscal revenue is derived from non-renewable resources.
The cycle goes like this: A resource is discovered and the demand for this resource is established. This draws private investment from early entrants into the industry. As the industry expands and the return on investments remains lucrative, more money is invested. Governments invest in infrastructure that benefits the dynamic industry. Both public and private investments are made at the expense of other potentially profitable industries seeking capital. In plain words, the eggs are placed in a single basket.
This is where the curse comes in. At some point in the resource cycle, the profits to industry begin to decline. This may be because the easily-extracted resources are diminished, and the resources that are more difficult to access or refine are needed to fill the gap. The government that relies on a single resource industry for revenue and for employing its workers responds by supporting the struggling and influential industry in the form of improved infrastructure, tax incentives, support for research & development, and reductions in royalty expectations. This is usually an honest attempt to sustain the industry (already vulnerable to boom/bust cycles in commodity markets), hoping that it will recover in the short term or within the next election cycle.
The ‘resource curse’ suggests that there will be a time when this recovery is weak, or simply non-existent. Nonetheless, out of desperation, even more money will be invested to prop up the industry – money that will never be recovered in revenues.
Since most of the available money has flowed to a single industry at the expense of other industries, the resource-rich region has not adequately diversified and it is unprepared for the loss in revenues and employment opportunities. It is not uncommon that the failing industries leave behind a legacy of obsolete infrastructure and environmental damage that become public liabilities. In many countries where this cycle has been observed, the results have included instability in democratic institutions and the rise of populism and demagoguery, a drastic reduction in public services, an increase in human desperation and a deficit of political leadership as manifested in growing corruption, violence, crime, scapegoating, and human rights violations.
The Paradox of Plenty is a cautionary tale. Indicators might include rising liabilities (like orphan wells and mining tailing ponds), increased public investments in infrastructure for the once-lucrative industry (often accompanied by declining private investment), lower transparency in government finances, and less civil and open public discussion. Good government leadership can mitigate many of the worst effects – by encouraging economic diversification, by adopting a long-term view in decision-making, by not relying on royalty revenues for core public services, or by saving revenues from this non-renewable inheritance for future needs.
It takes courage and foresight to recognize a faltering or uneconomic industry, and it takes wise leadership that seeks thoughtful input to avoid the worst consequences of the ‘paradox of plenty’.
For an expanded edition with graphs & links, See our Issues & Projects Page.
We are pleased to actively participate in the Alberta Narratives Project:
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The Project conducted 55 province-wide roundtable discussions with 482 Albertans run by 75 organizations and supported by 19 partners.
Download the Alberta Narratives Project reports I & II:
Alberta Narratives Project
Expansion of the Twin River Heritage Rangeland on the Milk River Ridge.
See our letter @ Letters to Government
SAGE commends the City of Lethbrige for leadership & commitment to managing municipal solid waste diversion & welcomes Community Curbside Recycling.
BILL C - 202 Canadian Environmental Bill Of Rights
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