reusable containers

November 25, 2008

Two simple things that everyone can do to reduce consumption are to use reusable cups for drinks and to bring their own reusable take-out containers to restaurants. It’s not that difficult – you just need to ‘want’ to do it. The biggest offenders are people who use throw-away containers for water, coffee and restaurant take-out.

The two criticisms about reusable containers are water and detergent use for washing, and the energy used to produce these containers. I have included some links at the bottom of this post if you want to read more.

Energy for producing reusable containers:
It is true that the production of our everyday wares costs a lot in energy, but I find it interesting that people are only concerned when asked to reduce the use of disposable items. Not many are too concerned while we continually over-consume and discard reusable items.

There is a lot of debate about how many times you must reuse a cup (rather than using a throw-away cup every time) before you start to see an energy benefit. These studies don’t consider the energy used for waste management, recycling or the impact of landfills on our environment. Most importantly, nobody asked anyone to go out and buy a new mug or Tupperware. Who doesn’t already have mugs? Use what you already have and this criticism becomes irrelevant.

Water and detergent use in keeping reusable containers clean:
It is true that washing reusable containers uses water and (sometimes) detergent – so do laundry and showers. I believe that although water is a ‘renewable’ resource, we should be extremely disciplined about water consumption. There are many ways to reduce water use while still being able to live comfortably. I personally use very little water (and almost never soap) when washing my own mug.

My family has been working very hard on these two concepts. We all have access to reusable containers any time we go to a restaurant. If we want take-out we hand in our containers. If we feel full, we pull out our containers and collect our leftovers. We started doing this about ten years ago when we saw someone pull out Tupperware to take their leftovers home.

I have two glass milk bottles at my desk that I fill every morning with water. I use a steel mug that I have used five times a day for the last three years. I wash the mug when it gets dirty – not very often since it’s only used for water. These habits are easy to create and don’t cost very much. You just need to ‘want’ to do it.

digital eskimo: paper vs. ceramic
ask pablo: the coffee mug debacle
treehugger: ceramic or paper



November 21, 2008

Hello! Today is World Hello Day. It began in 1973 in response to the conflict between Israel and Egypt. The concept is simple – say hello to strangers as a symbol of peace – but get ready for weird stares. People are always surprised (pleasantly I hope) when I smile at them or say hello.

Obama impressive so far

November 19, 2008

Barack Obama surprises me. So far he is better than I thought he could be. What impresses me the most is the way he has reached out to people who have been extremely offensive to him very recently. He has done it with control and humility, and without weakness, pride or naiveté. This is something that I hope to attain in my life.

To some these traits may seem trivial, but they have the power to transform relationships and conversations. People react much better to disagreement when their views are considered and when they are treated with respect.

I know that I am going to be disappointed and upset with some of his decisions, but the way he has carried himself so far gives me hope that he will be collaborative when possible and decisive when needed. I’ll keep watching and hoping that this isn’t too good to be true.

honour violence

November 13, 2008

The murder of Aqsa Parvez last year and the ensuing article in this month’s Toronto Life: Girl, Interrupted has caused a lot of debate about honour killings. I think most people agree that honour killings and honour violence are wrong. What’s being debated is the narrow definition that focuses on religion and tends to marginalize people based on culture.

I heard a comment on CBC radio yesterday morning that broadened the definition of honour killings to include deaths from intimate partner abuse – an occurrence that happens too often right here in Canada. The speaker was questioning the label “Toronto’s First Honour Killing” – one of the headlines used about the Parvez article.

When considering honour killings, most people conjure up images of far-away religions and cultures but ignore the problems under their own noses. I deplore the use of honour killings and honour violence in “far-away” places to control women’s actions and aspirations. But, I will not be lulled into pretending that similar acts don’t happen right here under the guise of domestic violence or sexual assault. While I think that it is appropriate to comment about the treatment of women and girls around the world, let’s do it with a measured approach that shies from generalizations and embraces self-inspection.

I am a proponent of people minding their own business about who you choose to love. However, I know that I live in a world with many people who react with fear to anything they don’t consider normal.

Someone smarter than me suggested that government should only give out civil union licences – whether you are homosexual, heterosexual, or other. Marriage or any other spiritual ceremony would then be a personal choice. I think this clearly expresses my feelings for compromise.

Using this approach, civil rights can be equally conferred to all, and marriage can still be relevant and spiritual because it is between you and your faith.

It was a bitter-sweet night on November 4th. Along with electing a president that defied all odds, parts of the US voted to deny equality to lesbians and gays. These types of decisions always beg the question: should the majority be able to take away the rights of the minority? I think it depends . . .

I don’t think many would argue with the majority taking away the Neo-Nazi’s right to promote hatred or the multinational corporation’s right to indiscriminately pollute the environment. That’s why it depends on what the issue is. I have a rule that has served me well so far – anything is fine as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.

To add complexity to this situation, some in the LGBT community suspect that their support for Barack Obama was not reciprocated by African Americans when it came to defeating proposition 8 in California. The reaction of some is to blame Obama for California, Arizona and Florida. Others have turned to more insidious and divisive racism to pay back the blatant homophobia. I doubt that many of these people voted for Obama only to support African Americans, but the sense of betrayal still cuts.

I support Barack Obama who has broken enormous barriers by becoming the first black US president. I also support full rights to the LGBT community (and many other discriminated groups), and I feel that Obama should promote this publicly – even though it will not be popular. I do not support the divisive actions under the guise of family values or the reactionary racism that has entailed. People have to find a way to get together and find out how similar their plights really are. This is the time to unite – however painful that may be.

Barack Obama

November 7, 2008

I am so happy that Obama won the US election on Tuesday. We had a SuperBama party at our house – very similar to a Super Bowl party – good food, good drink, and a blowout by half-time.

What got my attention was how inspiring Obama is to so many people all around the world. Looking at the tears in Chicago, the jubilation in Kenya, the celebration in Japan, I stood in awe about how much a person can inspire, how much is expected of him, and how much desperation people feel.

I wish Barack Obama well in bringing the US back to the world. He can’t do everything, but I know that he is the best person for the job. Here is just one example of the new approach to thinking. He relates food security to energy and references “Farmer in Chief”, an open letter to the president-elect from Michael Pollan. I highly recommend reading both articles.