Tips for reducing your exposure to harmful chemicals indoors

Accumulation of toxic chemicals inhaled, ingested and absorbed through skin every day is called “body burden.”Follow these simple ABCs to unburden yourself, your family and your home.

Woman hugging her baby in a toxic-chemical free homeEven extremely low levels of toxins can impact brain development  in children. Photo: Paul Hanaoka via Upsplash

A is for air fresheners

  • Some manufactured deodorizers mask odour problems, worsen air quality and can be painful, debilitating and isolating for people with environmental sensitivities. Open a window or turn on a fan!

B is for BPA

  • Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor found in plastic baby bottles, food storage containers and water bottles, receipts and more. Choose glass or stainless steel.

C is for couch, carpets and curtains

  • These items — and your TV, furniture and electronics — shed toxics every day. Solution: dust!

D is for Dirty Dozen

E is for earth

  • That’s diatomaceous earth (made from crushed fossilized algae)! It’s an eco-friendlier way to control ants.

F is for formaldehyde

  • Formaldehyde is used in clothing and textiles to prevent wrinkles and mildew during shipping. It also increases colour fastness and stain resistance. Wash new clothes BEFORE wearing and avoid “no-iron” shirts.
Home cleaners in reusable containersG is for “green”

Learn how to read product labels to shop smarter or make your own.

H is for hair dye

  • Some contain ammonia, petrochemicals, sulfates, phthalates and P-phenylenediamine, which can cause cancer and may be contaminated with brain-toxic heavy metals. Choose safer products or don’t dye at all.

I is for indoor air quality

J is for jojoba oil

  • Make lip balm with jojoba oil to avoid petrolatum, a petrochemical sometimes contaminated with cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

K is for killing germs

L is for liquid dish soap

  • Add a handful of soap nuts (they’re actually a fruit!) to a jar of water. Shake and use the sudsy solution to clean dishes and more.

M is for mosquitoes

A cast iron pan and other ingredients and cooking equipment.N is for non-stick

Cook with cast iron to avoid toxic chemicals like PFOA and PTFE that coat many non-stick frying pans and bakeware.

O is for off-gassing

P is for “parfum”

  • Even “unscented” products may contain ingredients to mask odours from other chemicals. Read labels carefully. Avoid “fragrance” or “parfum,”  which can trigger allergies and asthma.

Q is for quats

  • Found in bathroom cleaners and fabric softeners, quaternary ammonium compounds can induce an allergic response, don’t readily degrade in the environment and are toxic to fish. Choose products that disclose a full list of plant-based ingredients.

R is for responsible

  • Some household products are hazardous waste. Look for the symbols indicating corrosive, explosive, flammable or poison and properly dispose of all HHW — aerosol cans, batteries, old paint, etc. to keep them out of the landfill.

S is for sunscreen

  • Ingredients found in chemical sunscreens — parabens, oxybenzone, benzophenone and camphor derivatives — are killing coral reefs around the world and posing risks to human health. Choose safer options.

T is for triclosan

  • It’s an anti-bacterial agent which may interfere with hormone function, contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria AND harm fish and other wildlife. Make your own toothpaste or use castile soap to make cleaning products!
Water flowing down a drain.U is for unclog

Avoid drain cleaners with highly corrosive ingredients that can burn eyes, skin and lungs. Prevent clogs or unclog with baking soda, water and vinegar.

V is for vinegar

  • Use white vinegar to deodorize, cut grease and disinfect against household bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and other “gram-negative” bacteria!

W is for wet cleaning

  • This professional cleaning uses environmentally-friendly, 100 per cent biodegradable soaps and conditioners to remove tough stains and treat “dry clean only” items without harmful solvents.

X is for xeriscaping

  • Use up to 50 per cent less water by landscaping with native plants better adapted to your area. You won’t need pesticides!

Y is for yuck!

Z is for zzzs

  • Rest easy with pillows made from natural rubber (renewable and biodegradable), kapok (flower seeds) or organic cotton and organic wool.


Cold comfort: How we cooled ourselves before A/C

Roughly 2.8 billion people live in countries where the daily average temperature is 25 C, which is set to increase as the planet warms.

As a result of cheaper technology and a greater quality of life, more people will have access to air conditioners in the future. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that by 2050, as much as two-thirds of the world’s population could own an air conditioner.

This is both good and bad news. Air conditioning certainly makes people more comfortable during hot spells, but more A/C units put more stress on electricity grids, which in turn contributes to climate change.

While our grids are likely to become greener as we use renewables like solar and wind energy to replace fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, we can also become smarter in how we design buildings.

“From a technical perspective, pretty much anywhere in the world, you can build a building and not need air conditioning,” said John Dulac, an energy consultant with the International Energy Agency. He said it depends “on how you design the building environment and the ventilation in the building.”

Today, many of the office towers and condominiums we see are predominantly glass. This brings in more sunlight and therefore heat, which means a lot of electricity goes into cooling. Right now, a lot of buildings contain “thin walls, poor insulation, a lot of air gaps,” said Dulac. “It’s very hard to keep [buildings] cool.”

Even if we were to do so with greener energy, it would still be a waste of resources.

Dulac points out some older methods that can help us keep cool. For example, typically hot countries like Italy and Greece have used white roofs and lighter-coloured walls to resist the heat.

In the past, homes also had higher ceilings that kept rooms cool. Windows were built with shutters that would keep direct sunlight out, saving the home from the punishing daytime heat in summer.

In the Middle East — no stranger to extreme heat — buildings were constructed based on the typical direction of the wind and available shade. Also, the placement of buildings was important: it was common to have a courtyard that maximized shade during the day and allowed heat to rise, which was in turn replaced by cooler air from surrounding rooms. These buildings didn’t have many windows — just a couple to ensure air flow.

Dulac notes that it’s difficult to retrofit existing buildings around the world with these concepts, especially since most people live in cities, where it’s “cost-prohibitive to do those kinds of designs, and there’s not a knowledge around it.”

But since greater cooling is going to be a necessity, we might consider incorporating some of these older methods to keep us comfortable. SOURCE

Wht the Arctic Is Smouldering

We know the Arctic is melting – but it’s also on fire. And these wildfires could transform the pace, and scope, of global warming in ways that could affect us all.

Image result for arctic smuldering

The Arctic is transforming before our eyes: the ice caps are melting, the tree-line is shifting northwardsstarving polar bears wander into citiesThe region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet due to climate change, largely due to changes in albedo – the loss of sunlight-reflecting ice and snow, replaced by sunlight-absorbing ocean and soil. This is driving a dangerous positive feedback cycle where heating spirals into more heating.

And, now, the Arctic isn’t only losing its ice. It is being set ablaze.

Gargantuan forest fires in Siberia, which burned for more than three months, created a cloud of soot and ash as large as the countries that make up the entire European Union. More than four million hectares of Siberian taiga forest went up in flames, the Russian military were deployed, people across the region were choked by the smoke, and the cloud spread to Alaska and beyond. Fires have also raged in the boreal forests of Greenland, Alaska and Canada.

These are all the things we have been predicting for decades – Philip Higuera

Though images of blazing infernos in the Arctic Circle might be shocking to many, they come as little surprise to Philip Higuera, a fire ecologist at the University of Montana, in the US, who has been studying blazes in the Arctic for more than 20 years.

“I’m not surprised – these are all the things we have been predicting for decades,” he says.

Higuera and his team predicted in 2016, based on sophisticated computer modeling, that fires in the boreal forests and Arctic tundra would increase by up to four times by 2100.

A key tipping point, he says, is an average July temperature of 13.4C over a 30-year period. Much of the Alaskan tundra has been perilously close to this threshold between 1971 and 2000, making it particularly sensitive to a warming climate. The number of areas near to and exceeding this tipping point are likely to increase as the climate continues to warm in the coming decades, says Higuera.

“Across the circumpolar Arctic, the take-home message is that there are distinct thresholds above which you start to see the tundra burning – it’s like a binary switch,” says Higuera. “This threshold relationship is part of what makes the Arctic so sensitive: areas will stay below this threshold for years, off our radar for fire activity – and then all of a sudden with a change in temperature it will start to burn.” MORE



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Curbs on Methane, Potent Greenhouse Gas, to Be Relaxed in U.S

Leaks from natural gas drilling, shipping and storage are one of the main sources of methane emissions in the United States.
CreditCreditBrennan Linsley/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration laid out on Thursday a far-reaching plan to cut back on theregulation of methane emissions, a major contributor to climate change.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule aims to eliminate federal requirements that oil and gas companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from wells, pipelines and storage facilities. It would also reopen the question of whether the E.P.A. had the legal authority to regulate methane as a pollutant.

The rollback plan is particularly notable because major energy companies have, in fact, spoken out against it — joining automakerselectric utilities and other industrial giants that have opposed other administration initiatives to dismantle climate-change and environmental rules.

The weakening of the methane standard is the latest in the march of environmental-policy rollbacks by the Trump administration designed to loosen regulations on industry.

Environmental advocates described the proposal as a major setback in the effort to fight climate change. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. MORE

84 environmental rules being rolled back by the Trump administration.


Ontario government ends Ring of Fire regional agreement with Matawa First Nations

Funding for regional talks between province, 9 Matawa First Nations ran out in late 2018

Ontario Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford has ended the regional framework agreement between the province and the Matawa First Nations that was designed to guide talks over the Ring of Fire. (Martine Laberge/CBC)

The provincial government has officially ended the regional framework agreement between Queen’s Park and the First Nations closest to the Ring of Fire, pledging to move forward with a series of bilateral agreements that the province’s Indigenous Affairs minister says will remove delays to completing projects that communities themselves want to see.

At the top of that list, Greg Rickford said in an interview with CBC News, is a north-south corridor that, not only could lead to road access to the mineral-rich James Bay lowlands, but can also connect by road, as well as add to the provincial power grid and expand modern telecommunications to, “at least four, five Indigenous communities.”

“That has additional health and social and economic benefits that move beyond the more obvious opportunities of creating mines,” he said.

“To the extent that Noront [Resources] or other mining companies could build mines on that corridor, then we have a great value proposition.”

Rickford said that pursuing individual agreements with First Nations as they are ready to proceed with individual projects is a “pragmatic” approach, adding that the regional framework agreement had “come off line,” and that over $20 million has been spent without “shovels in the ground.”

“Today’s about being inspired by Indigenous communities and their leaders to start moving the Ring of Fire, broadly speaking, to the sound of business.”

But the opposition New Democrats’ Indigenous Affairs critic said he’s concerned that a series of one-on-one agreements can be used as a “divide and conquer approach,” between individual First Nations.

“The regional framework agreement provided a process of dialogue [for] First Nations and, not only that, it … gave communities a process to work together,” Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa said. MORE

Politics-as-usual can’t fix the climate crisis. Maybe it’s time to try a citizens’ assembly

Extinction Rebellion is calling for the approach that ended Ireland’s abortion deadlock to be used in the UK

‘Extinction Rebellion is merely asking that the government agrees to establish a citizens’ assembly and give it the task of bringing forward proposals.’ Photograph: James Liu/Guardian Community

The climate crisis demands an urgent, realistic and sustained response from governments around the world: such a response will inevitably require sacrifices from all of us. And there lies the rub for our systems of representative democracy.

How can politicians facing short-term constraints (particularly the need to be re-elected every few years) be expected to take the necessary decisions that require long-term and, probably, quite painful change on the part of the citizens who get to vote for them?

This is where a citizens’ assembly could help, as the experience in Ireland shows. The country’s ban on abortion was an intractable problem that generation after generation of political leaders had failed to resolve. In 2016, under intense domestic and international pressure, the Irish government established a citizens’ assembly and tasked it with coming up with recommendations. It met over the course of five long weekends spread across five months. The 99 citizen members heard from expert witnesses, advocates and women who had been affected by Ireland’s abortion ban. In carefully facilitated roundtable discussions the members deliberated on the subject, producing a series of recommendations that were then sent back to parliament. A special all-party committee of parliament spent a number of months debating the recommendations. The result of this was the decision to have a referendum, which passed by a two-thirds majority in the summer of 2018.

In Britain, the Extinction Rebellion group believes that a citizens’ assembly could play a similarly important role in addressing the climate emergency. At the heart of a citizens’ assembly is random selection: in much the same way as for jury duty, regular citizens are selected at random. They have not run for office; they are not there to represent special interests. The citizen members are there to represent themselves, and thereby the greater population, of which they are a representative sample.

This is bringing “disorganised society” into the room – giving regular citizens a voice in helping to drive debates on important public policy. These citizens, in turn, are put in the special position of informing and educating the political classes – helping our political leaders to work through the complexities of a difficult issue; informing them of aspects they might not have considered before; giving them a sense of where citizens might be prepared to go; even providing some degree of political cover.

What is laudable about the Extinction Rebellion agenda is that the activists are not pushing for particular policy decisions on the climate emergency: they are merely asking that their government agrees to establish a citizens’ assembly and give it the task of bringing forward proposals. MORE

Putting Climate Justice on the Bargaining Table: The Green New Deal & Labour

Image result for labour new green deal climate justice From The Leap: just over one week away from our webinar, Putting Climate Justice on the Bargaining Table: The Green New Deal & Labour!

Sign up here to join us on Tuesday, September 10th at 5pm PT / 8pm ET. Don’t worry if you can’t make it live — if you RSVP, you’ll get a recording by email.

Together with our panelists — labour leaders and organizers Nato Green, Tiffany Balducci, and David Camfield — we’ll be exploring questions like: What political and economic power do unions have? What role can they play in making the Green New Deal a reality? How are unions already putting climate justice demands on the bargaining table, building massive public support and winning unprecedented contract gains?

On September 10th, you’ll get to hear from these three experienced labour leaders and organizers, and ask your own questions about intersections between the labour movement and climate justice.

Join us on Tuesday, September 10th to be part of this conversation — or sign up to receive the recording.

Did McKenna do everything she could?

Catherine McKenna believes she has done everything she could to fight climate change

Catherine McKenna, the federal minister for the environment and climate change, speaks during an event in Toronto, Ont., on Aug. 27, 2019. Photo by Cole Burston.

She remembers the momentum: the gathering of countries, the urgency, the ambition, the instruction to work closely with Barack Obama’s U.S. administration, the stunned applause when she stood at the podium and said that “Canada is here to help.”

…Almost as soon as Canada got serious about the climate change emergency, McKenna and her government began fighting provinces over its plan to uphold its Paris commitments by putting a price on pollution.

“It was a different time, and we got an ambitious agreement because the world really did come together,” McKenna told National Observer in her Toronto ministerial office on Aug. 27. “And then look what happened.”

“Everyone’s always talking about how I’m fighting. I don’t want to fight them. I want to fight climate change. But I’m not going to step back in the face of governments that aren’t going to do what they need to do” – Catherine McKenna

The fight at home got more intense as conservative premiers started winning elections. Scott Moe took over from fellow conservative Brad Wall as premier in Saskatchewan in January 2018. Doug Ford ran Kathleen Wynne out of town in Ontario in June 2018, and promptly dismantled her government’s cap and tradeclimate policy. Jason Kenney returned Alberta to conservative government in the summer of 2019, after the oil and gas province’s one-term experiment with Rachel Notley’s NDP and their first serious climate plan.

These conservative governments and others in Manitoba and New Brunswick are ramping up their fight against carbon pricing, both in court and in the media, as federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer prepares for his own anti-carbon-pricing electoral battle at the ballot box.

Left to right: Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer. File photos by Alex Tétreault

In spite of the shifting and often ferocious political winds, McKenna has gone full throttle on a file that hadn’t been tackled seriously by Canada in 20 years. While often derided as “Climate Barbie,” she has had “this one historic shot” — as one environmentalist put it — to lead the Justin Trudeau government’s efforts to chart the way to a low-carbon future for one of the world’s worst polluters.

But has she done enough?

“As frustrating as this is, the reality is just too important,” an animated McKenna said in reflecting on her first four years in public office. “Everyone’s always talking about how I’m fighting. I don’t want to fight them. I want to fight climate change. But I’m not going to step back in the face of governments that aren’t going to do what they need to do.”

“We just have to figure out how we move forward,” she added. “You just grind away.”

‘Unprecedented, yet highly insufficient’

Progress has been undermined by the government’s failure to regulate absolute emissions from Canada’s largest emissions-producing sector: oil and gas.

The Trudeau government has approved two contentious pipeline projects: the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline, which would carry oil from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest and beyond, and the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which runs from the tarsands to the ports of British Columbia and which Ottawa bought from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion in 2018.

It has also approved the $11.4-billion Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, at the mouth of British Columbia’s Skeena River, which would threaten the migration of sockeye salmon through the Skeena estuary.

Along the way, conservation experts say protections for species at-risk has not been as stringent as it should be at a time when the world is facing the greatest biodiversity crisis in its history.

Graphic by Alastair Sharp and Fatima Syed 




Grassroots group fights Ford’s carbon tax stickers with … more stickers

The Ford government has given gas stations until Friday to put up anti-carbon-tax stickers that say “the federal carbon tax will cost you,” or else they risk getting fined up to $10,000 per day.

The organizers behind the non-partisan volunteer group CarbonTaxWorks say the information on the Ford government’s stickers is incomplete. They don’t mention that rebates will ensure most Ontarians get back more than they pay or the growing global consensus that carbon taxes are the best way to combat climate change.

“The gas pump stickers are misleading,” said Kevin Thomason, a CarbonTaxWorks volunteer in Waterloo, Ont. “We’re trying to guide things in the right direction.”

CarbonTaxWorks launched Wednesday with a portal that lets users order free stickers and learn about the effectiveness of putting a price on carbon. The website also shows that British Columbia, California and several European nations have reduced emissions while maintaining strong economies under carbon-pricing plans. MORE

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