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Back to School

electricbike.jpgBack to school season is helping us all live smarter.

By WorldChanging Canada writer Peter ter Weeme.

If the shorter days and first signs of changing leaves haven’t reminded you of the waning days of summer, all of the ads and store windows screaming “Back to School” certainly will.

It used to be that we all took pride in nifty new clothes, book bags and school supplies. Back to school season was always about buying more new stuff. This year, however, everywhere you turn there are print and online articles about ways to applying the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) to back to school preparations. From the Vancouver Sun to Green Living online, there’s no shortage of tips and advice.

No matter how conscious you are, it’s inevitable that you’ll need to make some purchases. Fortunately, almost every major chain that sells school supplies is now offering green products.

Take Chapters/Indigo (Indigo). They are implementing a new progressive paper policy that is increasing the use of post-consumer recycled paper and Forest Stewardship Council paper in the products they sell and the paper they use. Given that Indigo sells 50% of the books bought in Canada, their actions represent a significant shift.

Within five years, 50% of the fibre in the books and magazines they sell will be printed on post consumer recycled paper, 25% of the virgin wood fibre used in the books and magazines sold will be printed on FSC paper and they will reduce their internal paper usage by 25%.

While these may sound like relatively modest goals, the reality is that Indigo has to enlist the paper and publishing industries to support them in reaching this goal. Fortunately, Indigo is working in conjunction with Markets Initiative, an internationally respected environmental organization, to make it all happen. (The role of Markets Initiative is to “shift consumption patterns of industrial paper consumers so that their purchases do not destroy ancient and endangered forests such as Canada’s Boreal, temperate rainforests and the tropical forests.”)

Markets Initiative certainly is effective: they have already convinced 116 book publishers in Canada to use Ancient Forest Friendly™ papers (100% post-consumer recycled) for all of their uncoated one-colour books. What’s more, based on their success at convincing Raincoast Books in Canada to print the last several editions of the Harry Potter series on environmentally responsible paper, they’ve also inspired publishers in 16 countries to follow suit.

[Hey, college and university students out there. Here’s a challenge: Talk to the managers of your university or college bookstore and tell them to implement similar standards. There is strength in numbers.]

On the subject of stationery, school supplies and related products, Frogfile Office Essentials, a Vancouver-based company that offers environmentally responsible alternatives to conventional office products, is continuing to make big waves that are washing across North America.

Founded just over two years ago by Gil Yaron, a former lawyer and environmentalist, Frogfile is a real Vancouver success story with sales growing in double digits. Their largest coup so far has been beating out four large competitors to secure a two-year renewable copy paper contract with BC Hydro. (And with more than a quarter of sales coming from south of the border, they ship to wherever you work or live on the continent).

Speaking of transportation, with the significant rise in the price of gas over the past year, public transit ridership has risen significantly. Here in Vancouver, Translink, the local public transportation authority, is bracing itself next week for the onslaught of students to the local high schools, colleges and universities. Weekday ridership is expected to increase by more than 400,000 trips. As a result, next week will see Translink’s largest single increase in service.

But with a monthly travel pass averaging $100, these days the streets of Vancouver are seeing more and more electric scooters cruising around. Toronto has caught the scooter bug too. Priced from $1000, and requiring a mere ten cent charge up for every 50 km or so, these “power assisted bikes” don’t require a license and don’t need to be plated. The batteries are rechargeable at home or at work with an adaptor and are virtually silent. No wonder that E-cycle, a Vancouver based retailer of zero emission vehicles reports that they can barely keep up with demand.

Whether you are going back to school this fall or just stocking up on related items, it’s good to know that there are responsible, price-competitive alternatives for the conscious consumer.

Article from WorldChanging Canada

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By way of example of this posts news on publishers using recycled paper, my novel was printed on 50% post consumer recyled paper (100% wasn't available at the time). There's a little plaque in the front which tells readers what was saved:

16 trees (40 foot tall and 6-8 inch diametre)
6,583 gallons of waste water
2,648 kilowatt hours of electricity
726lbs of solid waste
1426lbs of greenhouse gases

As you can see, that's a significant saving! People aren't aware of just what is involved in publishing a book and the amount of waste it can lead to.

As for the quality of the paper? It's perfect. You'd never know it was once little more than garbage. In fact it has a wonderful heft, texture and colour, better than many other books which, to me, feel cheap.

The efforts described in this article are to be applauded.

Steve N. Lee
author of eco-blog
and suspense thriller 'What if...?'

Posted by: Steve N. Lee on 29 Aug 08

I worked at an Indigo in the suburbs. They don't recycle. Whats worse is that the books and magazines that don't sell, they rip off the covers and send them back to the publisher to prove they didn't sell the book.. and the rest of the book goes right into the trash!

During my time at Indigo I called the regional recycling program to ask them what would have to be done in order to allow us to recycle this needless waste. They said that we would have to give them a deposit for a bin which they would come and pick up for some measly amount a month (honestly less than 50 bucks a month!) and I mentioned that those figures sounded reasonable. The guy on the phone agreed.

So i go to my general manager with all this good news.. thinking maybe if there was no 'general recycling program at indigo/chapters that maybe our individual store could do it..

My manager was not thrilled by the idea. She was bothered that I even brought it up.

Two weeks later I was fired!

Posted by: Lauren on 6 Sep 08



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