Opting out of phone books: Yes, and not yet but soon

Opting out of phone books: Yes, and not yet but soon

I did a story for CBC News in Vancouver today that’s already getting a bunch of comments on our site. It’s about phone books being delivered that aren’t wanted, and what companies are doing about it. Not one but two thick business directories arrived on Vancouver doorstops a few weeks ago. I didn’t think much more about them until I saw Darren Barefoot’s post about putting the new books straight into the recycling bin. Others have also been griping about it too. Jonathon Narvey blogged about it and last year started a group on Facebook called The Yellow Pages Must be Stopped. His concern, as he said in my story: I understand they are recyclable and I understand they’re made from recycled products, but the energy that goes into making a product that very few people want just seems to me a huge waste of resources.” So what do the companies say? Both say their print directory is still well used. But, they’re responding to the concerns by letting people get off the distribution list if they want to. Canpages: You can opt out now This is the newer book in Metro Vancouver, but Canpages still delivers more than 800,000 business directories here (about the same number as their competition, the Yellow Pages Group, and at about the same time). Their Director of Marketing, Michael Oldewening, told me you can opt-out now from Canpages directory — and you have been able to for years. This year, for the first time, he said, there is a feedback form in the directory (page 142 in Vancouver edition) where you can request...
Talking trash with the Clean Bin Project

Talking trash with the Clean Bin Project

I spent yesterday morning with the people behind The Clean Bin Project, Jen and Grant. As I showed in my CBC story (video link) last night, they haven’t taken out the garbage in seven (!) months. They’re buying almost nothing, except food, and even with edibles they’re following strict rules to reduce packaging and waste. If you’re interested in reducing waste — and, like me, bored with stories about green living that encourage buying stuff — it’s worth checking out what they’re up to. Sure, they’re on the far end from most people in the enviro-commitment spectrum. Taking the garnish home from the restaurant to put in the compost is, even in Grant’s words, “a bit silly.” But other things they’re doing could suit the semi-committed: Make it harder to throw stuff away. The garbage bins they used to have around the house (bathroom, office) are gone. Make recycling easy. They have 10 bins, so everything has a place, and they’re all within reach. Don’t wait until you finish a food item to figure out whether its packaging is recyclable. Check it in the store. We’ve been doing a bit of this at home, on the recycling front. I realized last summer that I was throwing out toilet paper rolls just because the garbage was easy to reach. So, I put a paper recycling bin in the bathroom, and now it fills up faster than the garbage. Do you have any tips to reduce waste that you’ve used in your own...
Could composting be the new recycling?

Could composting be the new recycling?

We started composting at home about two years ago. I had been resistant: the smell, the slop, the fruit flies. My only previous compost experience was a big rotting pile at the back of a Kits rental that itself seemed to be returning to the earth. But a friend who goes through a lot of dirt in his garden offered to take our kitchen scraps, and we happily started collecting them. Now, we make way less garbage, and have sorted the smell and flies out. But, I’m not surprised that composting rates are so low in British Columbia. According to Stats Can: Only 31% of B.C. households compost (99% recycle) Composting rates are far higher in places like P.E.I. (92%) and Nova Scotia (71%) where there are government programs to handle organic waste. B.C. is the only province where composting rates have been declining since the 1990s. It’s a bit of a problem for a region with landfills that are filling up — where (according to Metro Vancouver) up to 300,000 tonnes of the stuff we dump each year could be composted instead. So, the region is right now making plans for two large-scale compost facilities. That doesn’t yet put composting in the easiness category of recycling (with, say, curbside pickup) but it is a first step. Here’s my CBC TV story on this, if you’d like to check it...
Coming up: Storytelling for scientists

Coming up: Storytelling for scientists

I’m giving a talk next month to a group of health science graduate students, on how to communicate their work in the media. I’m no expert, but I have worked in both worlds, and understand a bit about how they often clash. Both sides have work to do. For example, many (most?) reporters will cover a story about a scientific publication without reading the paper itself (relying instead on the press release). But, since the talk is for a training day for scientists, this advice is for them. As I prepare I’m going to post my ideas here. Some working titles: An introduction to the other side Know what your story isn’t Be the one to make it simple Stay human Have confidence in what you know What does all that mean? I’ll flesh out each point and post it in coming...

On code, poetry and trying stuff out

[This is a post about making this site, so ignore if you’re not into that.] This site is built using the blog tool WordPress. If you’ve never heard of it, neither had I until I went to Northern Voice last year. (Besides all the WP evangelists, founder Matt Mullenweg was the keynote speaker.) The funny thing about WordPress is, it looks pretty user-friendly. The site is clean and conversational. It advertises a “famous 5-minute installation.” But then there is also this ominous warning: If you have no idea what to do with this download, we recommend signing up with one of our web hosting partners that offers a one click install of WordPress or getting a free account on WordPress.com. I had no idea what to do with that download. I went ahead anyway, but got scared off for most of a year by language like PHP and mySQL. I can happily say now you don’t need to know what that means to install or use the tool. But it takes way longer than five minutes. The rest was comparatively easy, although I found most bits I tried to add didn’t work the first time either. These worked (and thanks be to their developers!): PrimePress as a theme, with an easily customizable header. (Others I tried said they did, but my pic never fit well) cformsII as a contact form. It’s not listed on the WP site, but others didn’t allow for the styling I wanted. Twitter for WordPress to show my Twitter feed. Others looked weird. I’d like to style this one more too, but that would take...