Cool Stuff

Posted on September 16, 2015

Beyond Boarding captures the views of folks on the path of the pipeline in their film, Northern GreaseIn 2013, a few members of the Beyond Boarding collective, a group of BC snowboarders, surfers, artists, and friends that strive to stand up against environmental and social injustices, decided to embark on a journey throughout British Columbia and Alberta to gain a better understanding of Canadian resource extraction projects.

Posted on September 13, 2015

andy shad rack update solar It has been a very long haul since we took the plunge last June and paid for our solar equipment, manufactured in China, to be transported across the US border to our home in Kaslo, BC. Sometime on December 5, electricity from six of the eight solar panels that are now hooked up to our batteries, began feeding energy to our fridge, and to some of the circuits in our house. 

Posted on June 05, 2015

If you are a mushroom fan you have probably heard of the Garden Giant mushroom (Stropharia rugoso-annulata). Or if you heard mycologist, Paul Stamets speak or have read his book, Mycelium Running, you may also know a bit about this species’ role in fungal bioremediation. If you engaged in Garden Giant companion planting last season, then the mycelium is already hard at work helping to protect and groom your garden.

Posted on May 19, 2015

It's no longer surprising to encounter 100-foot pinwheels spinning in the breeze as you drive down the highway. But don’t get too comfortable with that view. A Spanish company called Vortex Bladeless is proposing a radical new way to generate wind energy that will once again upend what you see outside your car window.

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Posted on February 19, 2015

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, announced Wednesday that the company is working on a new kind of battery that would be used to power homes. Based on Tesla’s lithium-ion battery technology, the new battery is expected to help the company become a leader in the growing home energy-storage market.

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Posted on February 04, 2015

It has been a very long haul since we took the plunge last June and paid for our solar equipment, manufactured in China, to be transported across the US border to our home in Kaslo, BC. Free trade has really destroyed our own manufacturing economy, but that is a whole other conversation.

Posted on January 09, 2015

In countries where electricity and water are scarce, keeping food from spoiling is a challenge. According to the United Nations, 45 percent of crops grown in developing countries end up going bad before getting to market or being consumed. That food becomes trash, wasting soil, water, seeds and labor and often contributing to famine.

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Posted on December 29, 2014

peugeotTechnology increasingly impacts the way we live. We’re not talking about the WiFi devices that allow you to control your home from wherever you are, or a personal camera-toting drone – those are already on the market for under $200. Here are three technological developments which seem fated to have the same level of impact on our lives as the personal computer.

Posted on November 10, 2014

Some tagged Antarctic penguins have had a new visitor lately and although it looks cute and cuddly it has an important purpose. The furry, penguin lookalike is a robot on a mission to check in on wild penguins while keeping them calm and stress-free.

Posted on September 24, 2014

House with large, sun facing windows, and solar panel roof.International architecture firm Snøhetta has partnered with Norway's Research Center on Zero Emission Buildings (ZEB) and to design and build a remarkable experimental house that helps move the development of very efficient buildings forward.

Posted on August 29, 2014

Book Cover: Reintroduction Biology“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” — Th. Dobzhansky, 1973.

Wiley-Blackwell publishes a book series on “Conservation Science and Practice” that gives much insight into conservation, ecosystem restoration, reintroduction biology, population and community ecology, and natural resource management, largely in a multidisciplinary context that includes social and economic considerations.

Posted on May 29, 2014

Electric carsA brand new Maserati was ahead of me. Responding to a shot of gasoline, the rumble of its mufflers pierced my car windows. A few blocks later, I’m beside this polished symbol of testosterone and money. Red light. This is the situation where I can’t resist the opportunity to have some electric car fun.

Posted on April 04, 2014

A Shanghai company has 3D printed 10 small houses, 200 square metres, costing about $5000.

Posted on March 31, 2014

On March 13, 2014, Gerrard Olivotto, a consultant working for the BC government, visited  Sointula, BC to conduct a survey to measure people's reactions to photographs of wind turbines located in various locations and terrains. Mr. Olivotto explained that the information collected will be analyzed and published, and will form the cornerstone of government policy regarding the scale and location of wind energy developments in BC.

Posted on February 11, 2014

The premiere, independent resource for finding North America’s leading environmental papers is newly updated and ready to serve you better.  

With so many mills making ecopaper claims it’s essential that companies promoting sustainable brands choose and use ecopapers that have earned the Environmentally Superior designation from leading environmental organizations. 

Posted on October 30, 2013

For many centuries, bamboo has been revered throughout Asia for its uncommon resilience, flexibility and versatility. More recently, the west has adopted bamboo as a paragon of sustainability. In many ways this estimation is justified and undeniable, but of course claiming that bamboo is the perfect, zero-footprint solution would be going too far. Still, compared with any other industrially scaled cash crop, this mighty grass certainly appears to be a leader in its field.


Posted on October 17, 2012

Bats don't need pesticides or electricity to kill mosquitoes - they only need a nice place to live.

by J. Cates

Bela Lugosi gave them a bad rep. But bats are good pals. They're a natural, all-purpose insecticide, and incredibly efficient at their job. One of the little critters can eat 500 mosquitos in an hour, and thousands in a single night, and they'll help you clear the air around your home with no chemicals and no electric zappers.

Posted on October 10, 2012

Our report on last issue's Footprint Quiz tells you how well you're doing.

by Norberto Rodriquez dela Vega

The Ecological Footprint concept was developed at the University of BC by Dr. William Rees and Dr. Mathis Wackernagel in 1995. It is a representation of how much of the Earth's biologically productive land is required to produce the food we consume, the wood to build our houses, to give room for infrastructure (roads, services and installations), and to assimilate our wastes.

Posted on October 08, 2012

It makes sense to recycle milk containers like other bottles, cans, and juice boxes instead of paying to let them choke the landfills.

by Ann Johnston

Who ever would have expected such a ground swell! In three months, BC's Southern Gulf Islands Recycling Coalition had submitted 19,270 signatures on its "Include Milk" petition to Joyce Murray, Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection. In June, the Coalition from Mayne, Pender, Galiano, Saturna and Saltspring Islands had decided once again to attempt to get containers for milk, and milk substitutes like soya and rice drinks, included under the Beverage Container Deposit Refund Regulation.

Posted on October 08, 2012

BC's forest industry has been in steady decline for two decades, with the US/Canada Softwood Lumber "Disagreement" being the latest blow. The economies of many rural forest dependent communities were collapsing well before the expiration of the Softwood Lumber deal. Towns like Sayward, Tahsis, and Youbou, once thriving forest sector towns, may soon be little more than points on a map.

What's ironic is that these towns are located in the middle of productive forest farms and, worse, some had profitable sawmills shut down. In the last decade alone, more than 14 saw and pulp mills have been shut down, throwing thousands out of work and devastating BC's rural economy. While many corporations are down sizing milling infrastructure, raw log exports have increased. Ironically, BC's Annual Allowable Cut has, until the most recent imposition of US countervailing duties, remained relatively high.

There are many complex reasons for the decline of the forest industry in BC: Changing global markets, loss of high quality softwoods (Old Growth), and a noteworthy change in the corporate psyche to one of utter disregard for anything (or anybody) but maximizing profits.

At the heart of BC's difficulties is a government-sanctioned forest land tenure system. Nowhere in the developed world is so much of the forest land base controlled by so few. Furthermore, these forest lands are virtually all public. This concentrated corporate control of public land is without parallel anywhere. The American claim that our forest industry is not free market based is probably true. BC corporate tenure holders horde their timber quota, selling only uncommitted surpluses to small local mills.

Timber value can be difficult to determine because the vast majority of logs cut are used internally by corporations and seldom make it to the public auction block. Stumpage, paid to the government for cutting rights is often under valued. Some forestry officials claim the only way they are able to set stumpage rates is through the value of exported raw logs. In effect, we do not have free and open log markets in BC, which leaves the survival of local, untenured manufacturing facilities at the whim of the forestry giants.

The problem with BC forest economics may not be the result of free market conditions or capitalism, but the lack thereof. When we examine the successful forest economies of other countries, like Germany or Sweden, we see that control of the forest resource is highly decentralized and controlled by many small woodlots. In the European Union there are over 1 million licensed small woodlot operators who, independently or cooperatively, direct their timber to saw mills and other specialty manufactures at fair market values.

A major revitalization of our provincial forest economy could be accomplished by a simple stroke of a pen--reform forest land tenure. To a certain extent, the government has recognized the importance of small scale forestry by creating the BC Woodlot tenure. There are presently 800 family owned and operated woodlots throughout BC and they are, by all accounts, exemplary models of forest management.

These tenures, from 200-500 Hectares in size, are coveted by their owners and the pride of the BC Forest Service but represent only a tiny fraction of BC's managed forests. They are the antithesis of the Tree Farm Licence industrial model.

Woodlot owners nearly always live in the communities most affected by their operations and are accountable for their activities. They hire local loggers and contractors and logs are sold to local manufacturers at fair market value. According to the BC Woodlot Association, not only do woodlot owners employ locals, they hire 3 loggers per thousand cubic metres cut--this compared with the Tree Farm Licence Industrial model which provides only 2/3 of a job per thousand cubic metres cut. Woodlot operators also hire more outside help, like mechanics, foresters, and accountants, than do corporate Tree Farm Licence holders. How can this be? Simple economics. Big corporations put the value of a tree into expensive helicopters, office towers, high priced executives, and shareholders. The woodlot operator puts the tree's value into his home, his employees, his contractors, and his community.

And there are other significant attributes of woodlot tenure. They completely embrace free market principles by maximizing timber value. Woodlot style tenure offers the kind of transparency demanded by the US forest sector representatives in softwood lumber negotiations.

Furthermore, woodlot operators provide a steady supply of timber for the open market, a reliable wood supply which will, over time, encourage more value added industry to locate in smaller forest communities. This system is virtually identical to European economic forestry models in terms of employment rates in the woods, and in the mills.

"Magic bullets," easy solutions to regional economic or social problems, are rare but Ralph Keller, long time student of logging practices and forest policy insists there is an effective way to turn the BC forest economy around, for good: Reform the Land Tenure.

Finally, increasing the availability of free market wood will encourage entrepreneurs to maximize local and export market potential, and efficient utilization of wood. Along with all this comes greater community stability, greater employment levels, and increased tax revenues for provincial coffers.

Posted on September 26, 2012

by Lindsay Cole

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) was held in Johannesburg, South Africa from August 26 to September 4, 2002. It marked the largest gathering of its kind in history, and was intended to develop a plan to implement the agreements made at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Sixty-five thousand representatives from around the world--non-governmental organizations, business and industry, women, farmers, indigenous peoples, landless people, trade unionists, state governments (including over 100 heads of state), youth and children--were there. So was I.

Posted on September 25, 2012

by Susan McVittie

Deceased batteries from your TV remote, smoke detector and many household appliances no longer need to go to the landfill where they can leach toxic chemicals into the ground. The BC Ministry of Environment has mandated a battery recycling pro­gram. In partnership with Call2Re­cycle, all household batteries under 11 pounds (five kg) – including re­chargeable, alkaline, cell phones and household appliances can be dropped off at nearly 1,500 collection locations across the province.

Posted on August 24, 2012

Did you know that your $3 eco-tax for tires sometimes pays for burning those tires? Did you think BC was taking a lead in Product Stewardship and Recycling? Wasn’t the whole idea of the 1991 tire fee to prevent tire fires? Confused? Welcome to environmental policy making in the New Era. It’s pretty much like environmental policy making in every other era. 

by Delores Broten 

Posted on August 24, 2012

by Wayne Cullen

So much for a paper-less world. Those piles of reports, each thicker than a pair of Dagwood sandwiches contending for space on desks everywhere belie the paper-less predictions.

Not only that, many of those reports don’t even get looked at. Who could possibly analyze all that data? The piles just sit there until they slip off the side of the desk, hopefully into a recycling box, but too often into the garbage. …and another tree is felled…

Global paper consumption has more than tripled over the past 30 years.

Almost half of the trees harvested in North America go to the production of paper.

Posted on August 22, 2012

Another holiday has passed followed by yet another January of reflections on the consumerism of the season. Yes, I also am guilty of the self-imposed pressure to “make good” under the Christmas tree. Old habits and vague childhood memories of how things could have been clung to me as I joined the frantic swell of holiday shoppers crooned to by Bing and Perry. 

This year I did manage to restrain myself and have actually not gone into the New Year in debt.

Posted on August 22, 2012

by Elaine Hughes

The Saskatchewan Agrivision Corporation (SAC) held the “Drought Proofing the Economy” meeting in Regina in early November, as part of the $300,000 Phase One of the federal- provincial 50-year Water Development Plan for Saskatchewan. Red Williams and Al Scholz, SAC, began by pointing out that the solutions to the province’s economic problems all lead to water; we’re not making good use of it and, by ‘re-jigging’ current methods, we can find a balance between the economy, the environment and people. 

Wayne Clifton and Graham Parsons, Clifton Associates,

Posted on August 22, 2012

by Nancy Myers

You’ve heard about the precautionary principle and how it came to be articulated and applied to environmental health, and how this simple principle brings with it a strong set of closely linked ideas and values and practices. In fact it must be applied broadly as well as narrowly. And you can’t take a precautionary approach without talking about both economics and ethics.

Posted on July 18, 2012

The concept of Peak Oil is developing quite a political following, although not quite so much as climate change and global warming. Peak Oil is the idea that we have reached or will soon reach the point at which half of all the easily extractable oil and gas around the globe has been consumed. Although the pumps will not suddenly run dry, the cost of the remaining oil, both in money and effort, will continue to escalate, with unforeseeable impacts on the American and global economy. A Great Depression, or a massive transformation in energy use, is generally foretold. Of course, similar challenges will be overcome as our societies reinvent themselves and their technologies for a sustainable energy future.

Posted on July 18, 2012

by Oliver M Brandes, Tony Maas and Ellen Reynolds

Water scarcity is the new reality for a growing number of Canadian communi­ties. We need only to look to Tofino on BC’s “wet coast” where the town was on the verge of closing its doors last September due to a water shortage. Or to the Prairies where people are wondering where their water will come from when the Rocky Mountain glaciers are gone. Even communities in the Great Lakes Basin are facing water limits—with some like Guelph and the Region of Waterloo drawing up plans to plumb pipes and tap the lakes.

Many regions across the country anticipate hotter and dryer summers as climate change impacts escalate.

Posted on July 16, 2012

Combining social goals and earth restoration components into a Plan B budget yields an additional annual expenditure of $190 billion, roughly one third of the current U.S. military budget or one sixth of the global military budget. In a sense this is the new defense budget, the one that addresses the most serious threats to our security.

by Lester R. Brown

Chapter 13: The Great Mobilization

Posted on July 10, 2012

by Susan MacVittie

If you’re wondering what to do with the old toaster you replaced at Christmas, you now have the option of recycling it through one of 100 re­cycling locations as part of BC’s Un­plugged, Small Appliance Recycling Program. Unplugged is the first small appliance recycling program of its kind in Canada and the only govern­ment-approved small appliance recy­cling program in BC. Launched Octo­ber 1st, 2011 by the Canadian Electri­cal Stewardship Association (CESA), the program accepts more than 120 small appliances

Posted on July 09, 2012

by Ernest Callenbach 

In 1987 when the United Nations’ Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, appeared to worldwide fanfare, its slogan of “sustainable development” reassured environmentalists, who focused on the term “sustainable,” while pleasing business interests, who understood “development” to mean continued material growth. It seemed we could have it all. But many observers then and since have pointed out that “sustainable development” is an oxymoron.

On a finite planet, we can’t have both sustainability and continued material growth. It’s past time to abandon this linguistic sleight of hand and rally around a new, shocking but realistic slogan: sustainable shrinkage!

Posted on June 25, 2012

by Joyce Nelson

Metals can be used and recycled through the economy almost without limit. Fewer Mines = Less Pollution = Less GHGs

“One of the beauties of steel is you can keep recycling it. It is infi­nitely recyclable,” says Ron Watkins, president of the Canadian Steel Pro­ducers Association.

Posted on June 25, 2012

A checklist to remind you of all the things you can do to use water wisely.

The bathroom

• This one is so simple – and like so many simple things, it's so easy to forget. Don't leave water running while you brush your teeth or wash. You could run through 5 litres of wa­ter a minute uselessly down the drain this way.

• Get a low flow shower head, preferably one with a shut-off button while you are soaping or shampooing. You'll never notice the difference, but it's about 11 litres of water a minute.

• Replace a conventional flush toilet with an Ultra Low volume unit. Cost: about $200. Water savings: 12 litres per flush!

• Alternatively, get a toilet dam for about $10,

Posted on June 14, 2012

Saving Water in the Gardenby Paula Rodriguez

Water in the form of rain and snow is scarce in some areas of British Columbia. Areas of the Okanagan, Thompson, Similkameen and East Kootenay valleys receive less than 400 mm (15 3/4”) of precipitation a year, compared to Vancouver which receives at least 1,250 mm (50”) a year.

Posted on February 11, 2009

by Stephen Salter

Economists and ecologists across
are locked in debate: How much pollution can the planet ab­sorb? How much will
cost? I think we’re ask­ing the wrong questions.

City life has isolated us from nature’s laws, so that we

Posted on February 01, 2009

The concept of Peak Oil is developing quite a political following. It is the idea that we have reached or will soon reach the point at which half of all the easily extractable oil and gas around the globe has been consumed. Although the pumps will not suddenly run dry, the cost of the remaining oil, both in money and effort, will continue to escalate, with unforeseeable impacts on the American and global economies. A Great Depression, or a massive transformation in energy use, is generally foretold.

Sharon Astyk, like many Watershed Sentinel readers, is well advanced down the route of low energy living. As such, these suggestions go far beyond the usual stale sustainability tips for consumers and into the kind of adaptations that can reduce our energy usage, not by percentage points, but by orders of magnitude. At the