Sustainability on the Mind: ‘Externalities’

From Sustainable Man:

David Suzuki explains the fallacy of conventional economics, in an interview done for the BBC. The song is “Outro” by M83.

Thinking Sustainability: ‘What if Can Do Can’t? The Vulnerability and Resilience of Cities’ 

Bill Rees, co-originator of the "ecological footprint" concept, explores how our green buildings, smart growth, hybrid cars, renewable energy, other hopeful techno-fixes alone won’t be enough to solve our climate and energy crises. He argues changes to our thinking and culture are fundamental to addressing them. 

You can access his presentation slides here. The video was shot in October 2009 at the 'Gaining Ground: Resilient Cities' summit in Vancouver, Canada.


(Source: Gaining Ground Summit)

From The Georgia Straight:

Hunter Moyes arrives at Harvest Community Foods (243 Union Street) laden with tiffins—round, stainless-steel food containers—that the grocery store/café will be selling as part of the Tiffin Project. The initiative is Moyes’s recently launched eco-baby, a bid to eliminate disposable restaurant takeout containers and to support local agriculture.

Moyes sits at one of the café’s outdoor tables and chats with earnest sincerity about how the project came about. As a chef, he was appalled at the number of disposable containers used for takeout and leftovers. He had his own tiffin that he was using as an alternative when he carried out, but wanted to find a way to spread the gospel to other consumers.

The concept is simple: consumers buy tiffins from participating restaurants or from and then get discounts on their food when they put the tiffins to use. The containers are $26, with $4 of that amount helping restaurants buy from local farms. Moyes will work with restaurants on an ingredient-by-ingredient basis, getting them to switch to a local producer by subsidizing the cost difference.

“Localizing food and agriculture is very in line with our values,” says Sarah Wagstaff, operations manager of the Noodle Box (1867 West 4th Avenue and 839 Homer Street), during a phone chat. The restaurant chain received an email from Moyes about nine months ago and immediately responded because they had been doing their own research for a similar concept. As well, since customers were already informally bringing in reusable containers, becoming tiffin-friendly just made sense.

“We go through 750,000 noodle boxes a year. That’s a huge amount,” says Wagstaff. While their containers are compostable, Wagstaff is eager to reduce this number by providing customers with an incentive to switch to the tiffins. They’ll get $2 off their first food bill with the purchase of a tiffin, and $1 thereafter.

Other establishments that have said yes include Nuba, the Waldorf Hotel, Edible Canada, Fable, the Stock Market, and Tacofino, and more are on the way. Moyes does concede that some restaurants may be hesitant about joining because, ultimately, liability rests with them when it comes to consumers bringing in outside containers. The Noodle Box runs the tiffins through its dishwasher before filling them up as an extra precaution.

Check out the rest of the article here.

Personal note: I’ve been taking glass and rubber lidded containers along with me when picking up take out from restaurants in my neighbourhood for several years now. Usually, the restaurants are cool with it, especially if I mention it over the phone when ordering. They’re saving money on packaging after all! But this project takes it to a whole new level. Really hope it succeeds!


(Infographic source: The Tiffin Project)

Today, August 22, is Earth Overshoot Day, marking the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year. We are now operating in overdraft. For the rest of the year, we will maintain our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Throughout most of history, humanity has used nature’s resources to build cities and roads, to provide food and create products, and to absorb our carbon dioxide at a rate that was well within Earth’s budget. But in the mid-1970’s, we crossed a critical threshold: Human consumption began outstripping what the planet could reproduce.

The fact that we are using, or “spending,” our natural capital faster than it can replenish is similar to having expenditures that continuously exceed income. In planetary terms, the costs of our ecological overspending are becoming more evident by the day. Climate change—a result of greenhouse gases being emitted faster than they can be absorbed by forests and oceans—is the most obvious and arguably pressing result. But there are others—shrinking forests, species loss, fisheries collapse, higher commodity prices and civil unrest, to name a few. The environmental and financial crises we are experiencing are symptoms of looming catastrophe. Humanity is simply using more than what the planet can provide.

Earth Overshoot Day is an estimate, not an exact date. It’s not possible to determine with 100 percent accuracy the day we bust our ecological budget. Adjustments of the date that we go into overshoot are due to revised calculations, not ecological advances on the part of humanity. The when is less important than the what.

Four paragraphs from the Global Footprint Network’s article, 'August 22 is Earth Overshoot Day'. You can read and learn more here, including about your own ecological footprint and responses to this predicament including examples of cities, countries, and businesses that are transitioning to ‘one planet living’. The BedZed neighbourhood in the UK is one well known example.  


(Infographic source: Global Footprint Network)

Sustainable Communities | ‘Jennifer Keesmaat: Walk to School’ 

From TEDx via YouTube:

Jennifer Keesmaat is an urban planner and Principal at Design Dialog, an integrated planning firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Jennifer’s passion for building sustainable communities is evident in this TEDxRegina talk where she reminds us of a simple yet meaningful pastime — the walk to school. This talk was filmed May 16, 2012 in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

It’s worth noting that Keesmaat was recently hired as the new chief planner for the city of Toronto



Join us for a BCSEA Webinar, starting at noon Pacific time (3:00 PM EDT) with Mathis Wackernagel, co-founder of the ecological footprint concept, and co-winner with Professor Bill Rees of the prestigious 2012 Blue Planet Prize

Mathis Wackernagel, Ph. D. is co-creator of the Ecological Footprint and President of Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability think-tank which focuses on bringing about a sustainable human economy in which all can live well within the means of one planet.

Mathis has worked on sustainability on six continents and lectured at more than a hundred universities. He previously served as the director of the Sustainability Program at Redefining Progress in Oakland, California, and ran the Centro de Estudios para la Sustentabilidad at Anáhuac University in Xalapa, Mexico.

He has authored or contributed to over 50 peer-reviewed papers, numerous reports and various books on sustainability that focus on embracing limits and developing metrics for sustainability.

More here.


(Infographic source: Global Footprint Network)

Ecological Footprint creator William Rees on ‘Why We’re in Denial’  

From The Extra-Environmentalist:

Dr. William Rees is a professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia and former director of the School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP). He is the originator of the "ecological footprint" concept and co-developer of the method… We ask Bill about the reasons we’re in denial and how we could start adapting to our ecological challenges through a new cultural narrative.

Thinking Globally: 'Living Planet Report 2012'

From WWF:

The Living Planet Report is the world’s leading, science-based analysis on the health of our only planet and the impact of human activity. Its key finding? Humanity’s demands exceed our planet’s capacity to sustain us. That is, we ask for more than what we have.

Animating Biodiversity, Ecosystems & Sustainability: 'Not Another Nature Film'

From Green TV

A specially-commissioned animation featuring the voice of Stephen Merchant explaining, in simple terms, the state of our natural world, and our impacts on it.