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...
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...

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...

Welcome

I’m a journalist based in Vancouver, Canada, currently working as the environment reporter for CBC News Vancouver. One thing I’ll do here is post about the stories I’m reporting. They range from newsy, like the crash in recycling commodity prices, to the more citizen/consumer focused. For example, I recently did a piece on the messy question, “How clean does my peanut butter jar have to be to get recycled?” (Pretty clean, it turns out.) I used to be a biologist, or at least a biologist-in-training. That makes me a geek for all kinds of things that many journalists I’ve met dislike, including animal carcasses and math. The problem of communicating science and risk well in the news is an ongoing interest of mine. I’ve also been working at another intersection lately — where mainstream media is experimenting with social media. I was part of the team that started the Your Story project in 2007, which was CBC’s first pilot in citizen journalism. In some ways, this is a natural next step, another tool for newsgathering. But there’s also a culture clash there — which makes it tricky, and interesting. After a period of meaning to, I’ve now stumbled through enough code to put together this site, as a place to write about these topics. Thanks for checking it...