Enough for the new year

Enough for the new year

When I’m travelling, I really enjoy how everything that makes it in the backpack really deserves to be there. (It fits, looks good, works, whatever.) I’m not going to reduce my belongings to a backpack, but I’d rather feel that way looking around my home.

The dirt on clean: avoiding antibacterials

With all the talk about swine flu and handwashing, I decided to take questions from parents to an expert in public health, Dr. Bonnie Henry with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. (CBC story here). Dr. Henry just published a book on preventing disease spread, called Soap and Water & Common Sense, and has been on the front lines of media-messaging around the swine flu virus. The piece of advice that’s yielded the most discussion online, and in our newsroom, is about avoiding antibacterial soaps with ingredients like triclosan. As Dr. Henry noted, they can lead to drug-resistant strains, and do nothing against viruses like the flu. Pros and Antis I’ve seen two camps of reaction: people who are surprised antibacterials are considered harmful, and people who have known that for years and are surprised anyone is surprised. (As a recent post on yoyomama notes, triclosan was one of the chemicals the authors of Slow Death By Rubber Duck loaded their systems with.) Dr. Bonnie Henry says ad campaigns are adding to confusion: People think that having ‘antibacterial’ on it means it’s more healthful and it’s going to protect myself and my family. And they honestly believe that because of the advertising. When in reality it may cause harm, and it’s certainly not needed.” I’m happy to hear a prominent health official talk about this. I’ve long avoided antibacterials, not because I’d researched them carefully, but because past biology-student roommates had ranted about their damaging effects on the environment. It was an easy decision because I’m not remotely germophobic. But it’s nice to see what’s good for human and...
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. 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.

Cleaning the peanut butter jar

Update: Thanks to @marklise, @nolanzak, @davejohnson, @ChrisParry and @eco_smart for their suggestions via Twitter! If you have a suggestion, let me know. I’ll admit it, I was a little resistant to taking on what are generally called “consumer stories” on my beat as an environment reporter. (Find out why after the jump) But my editors have been keen on them, and I have to say they were right — gauged by audience response, at least. Some of the topics I’ve tackled so far: What difference would it make if we stopped using plastic bags? How do you find a greener Christmas tree? How clean should your peanut butter jar be to get recycled? Do you have questions about reducing your footprint, that you want answered? (Or at least asked?) Leave a comment. What’s my beef with the consumer story? They can be overly obvious, like the post-Thanksgiving stories that recommend refrigerating turkey leftovers. I also had the impression that a lot of “green living” pieces can boil down to the story line, “don’t buy this, buy that.” As if a sustainably-sourced bamboo end table is going to save the planet. So, my editors and I agreed I’d aim to steer clear of stories that fall into those categories. Which is why I’m always looking for new questions to take...