Monday, April 27, 2009
by Bonnie Alter, London Ont.
It was one of those moments of inspiration: farmers were complaining about their surplus wool to a woman who was interested in developing ethical packaging methods. She thought "If you can use wool to insulate a loft, why not to keep food cool?" And a new concept, and company was born: Woolcool.
Developed by Angela Morris, Woolcool is a a range of boxes using recycled, recyclable cardboard with pads of sheeps' wool insulation lining. The plastic lining is recyclable and the sheared wool is compostable. How simple is that.
She makes of use of waste wool--shearings that are too poor quality to be used for anything else. Since there are 22 million shearable sheep in the UK and they keep growing new fleece every year, there won't be a shortage in that area. The plastic covers have little holes in them that allow the wool to absorb the moisure released by the packaged food and to keep it cool for more than a day. The health and safety guidelines call for food to be kept at 5 degrees centigrade, but Woolcool keeps it twice as cool.
Already River Cottage, the National Trust and Daylesford Organics are customers, which is pretty high profile. They are using it because every element of the food boxes can be recycled, composted or reused. It is completely sustainable.
Of course it's more complicated to get the product refined and going. She is working on ways to improve the design and make it lighter and more cost effective. Now a Woolcool box costs about 50% more than a polystyrene one. When she starts selling in bulk she will be able to bring down the price.
She has just won an Observer Food Award, the Judges Special Award, for her woolly thinking. Woolcool
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
by Lloyd Alter, Toronto
Canadian broadcaster and columnist Rex Murphy thinks Al Gore, David Suzuki and most environmentalists are secretly gleeful over the economic crisis because it reduces output and pollution. He writes in the Globe and Mail:
"Curiously, however, we hear very little from them of this "upside" to the current crisis. Maybe because it's "an inconvenient truth," and the telling of it would make explicit what has always been the real equation of the global warming scare. Which is, that if people believe the planet is on the path to apocalyptic ruin because of the world's dependence on petroleum - and that, without exaggeration, is the message of the global warming advocates - then the world's economies must radically shrink. We must do and have less of everything. We must make less, travel less, buy less - and endure the deeper hardship of more people out of work."
That is the inescapable message of a serious belief in global warming. No amount of chatter about a "green economy" or Twittering about all the "green jobs" about to materialize as soon as we "wean ourselves from our carbon dependency" - all rhetorical sugar-coating - will change it.
Do you really wish to know what this "green economy" will look like? Look out the recession's window. We're in it.
Now Rex is from Newfoundland, where they are as unhappy as most environmentalists are about the fact that oil costs fifty bucks a barrel. He is also wrong about so many things; he doesn't hear about this "upside" because he made it up, environmentalists have 401Ks and houses too. It is no surprise, either; it happened after the fall of the Soviet Union and happens in every recession. (The Wall Street Journal confirms it.)
He is also wrong about the green economy; today's Chicago Tribune tracks the growth of energy efficiency jobs, some 87,000 people doing audits, construction workers insulating and upgrading buildings. Jim Tankersley writes:
In the private sector, firms nationwide say they're doubling or tripling workforces to upgrade millions of homes, businesses and government buildings. The reason? The stimulus spending and an accompanying batch of new tax breaks for efficiency.
Chief executives and analysts expect the demand to last, in part because of some strings attached to the stimulus money that push states to adopt ongoing efficiency incentives.
Oh, and Rex, what is making money for Bombardier this quarter? Trains. Green jobs are about the only thing keeping them going right now.
Solving our environmental problems takes money and commitment, two things that we have more of in a good economy than a bad one. And while we have often said that we do think we have to get small, we also say we have to get better.
Don't dare to assume that you know what environmentalists think, nobody is cheering on this recession.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
by Michael Graham Richard, Gatineau, Canada
Documentary About Frogs Premieres Sunday, April 5 at 8pm ET on PBS
"Frogs have been living on this planet for more than 360 million years, and over the centuries, evolved into some of the most wondrous and diverse creatures on earth. Today, however, all their remarkable adaptations and survival tactics are failing them." Indeed, it is a sad state of affairs for frogs. We've probably already lost a third of amphibians, and many more are severely threatened.
Where the calls of frogs once filled the air, scientists now hear only silence. Ecosystems are beginning to unravel, and the potential to discover important medical cures may be lost forever. Habitat loss, pollution and a human population that has doubled in the past 50 years have set the stage for their diminished numbers. But now, a fungus called chytrid has been identified as the major culprit, and so far the spread of the fungus can’t be stopped.
Mark your calendar, Frogs: The Thin Green Line will premiere on Sunday April 5th at 8pm ET on PBS