Reduce your footprint

Driving back to Kaslo today I listened to a segment on the radio about the UK banning plastic drinking straws.

The emotion behind the decision was assisted by a recent YouTube sensation of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in it’s nose.

It made me recall a discussion with my wife. Jackie was telling me recently that in a recent report something close to 80 per cent of all recyclable plastic ends up in the garbage dump; the rest used to go to China to be recycled.

That was until the end of last year when China stopped accepting plastic for recycling, giving the whole world a very big problem.

Plastic, although much of it can be recycled, still ends up polluting the planet in a variety of different ways.

For example, there are massive floating islands of plastic drifting in the oceans of the world. Coral reefs are being damaged by plastics and animals suffer with original plastic products or now micro-beads of plastic in their intestinal tract.

Since the 1950s, several billion tonnes of plastic have been consumed. It is a product that is resistant to decay, so unless we recycle, reuse or break it down to it’s original components, the problem will keep mounting. 

That is, unless we decide to “reduce”.

Why do we as consumers and suppliers use so much plastic? How difficult can it be to reduce our personal plastic footprint?

Earlier this week I was giving a speech in Florida and I met a Consul General for the Netherlands who was telling me of a recent trip to Rwanda. On arrival at customs she has to show a gift that she had bought for a family member.

She was surprised that the customs officer took the package from her, removed the gift from the plastic bag and then carefully placed it in a paper bag and gave it back to her. Plastic is not allowed in Rwanda.

I know, for me, I don’t use typical bathroom products in plastic packaging. I won’t buy bottled water (unless absolutely necessary) and my wife diligently uses our own shopping bags.

Does it make a big difference? Well, it might to that one sea turtle; or, if we all changed our habits, we could gradually see change on a larger scale, something that my good friend Bob Purdy would love to have seen in his lifetime.

Next time we want to complain about a manufacturer and the plastic waste you just witnessed at the landfill, ask yourself, "Am I a consumer of plastic? Am I part of the problem or part of the solution?"

If nobody purchased products in plastic bottles, manufacturers would not be producing them.


Toxic without the pipeline

Toxic environment even without a pipeline

Get out of the sandbox and start negotiating a settlement.

The dispute between Alberta and BC is getting to be as entertaining as the latest reality TV show in the U.S.,  “Trump & Order” or is it “Law & Trump." Somehow neither of them seem to fit.

What is different about the B.C./Alberta dispute is that it is a single issue drama series. Ordinarily politicians look for common ground.

  • Discuss
  • Negotiate
  • Play poker
  • Settle on a solution

In this instance, both provincial leaders appear to have jumped in to the sandbox together and started playing childish games.

At the same time, let's be clear, there is nothing at all childish about provincial and federal economics and nothing at all childish about the sanctity of the Pacific Northwest coastline. 

There are untold economic reasons to approve the pipeline and the federal government has sided with Alberta in stating the importance to the economy of exporting oil via a western pipeline. As a free-enterprise capitalist, I totally support the economic argument.

As an avid outdoor recreational participant who appreciates the natural environment, I hear, and can empathize, with the government of B.C.

For decades, the people of Canada, including First Nations, corporations and governments have been complicit in destroying the environment in the favour of the economy. The eternal challenge is that the damage is compounding. 

Reclamation fees don’t do justice to the clean up required post operations and we end up walking away from toxic environments that are left for hundreds of years in the hope that they will clean up naturally.

A few years ago, I was in a meeting in another country that was trying to deal with fine tailing ponds left behind by a Canadian corporation that sold their assets, including the fine tailing ponds.

We were talking to engineers on the project who indicated that there was no technology to clean up the ponds. They were highly toxic and the only plan was to continue diluting them with sea water for the next 200 years, by which time the toxicity will have been suitably diluted.

Can we build leak-proof pipelines? I don’t doubt.

Can we build double-hulled ships and navigation systems and protocols that avoid disasters at sea? Of course, we can.

Can we co-ordinate disaster response teams to mitigate in the unlikely event of a spill? Sure we can.

The question is not whether or not we can. Of course, we can.

The question is whether we will.

History has shown us that in most instances we take the money and run leaving someone else to clean up the mess. In many instances the gross revenues from projects do not provide enough money to clean up the mess. In which case, remind me of the economic benefit again.

As I recall, B.C. has unresolved questions on guarantees of pipeline safety, commitment to safe shipping and bonding to ensure rapid response disaster recovery teams would be available. 

All of these things are, of course, possible, the only economics that often come in to play are in the boardroom where budgets are cut because the cost of initiation was much higher than projected with all the pesky meetings. The recipient of the budget cuts is usually the detrimental effects on the environment.

I respectfully submit that both sides to the argument are important, but until our political leaders get out of the sandbox and into the same room to negotiate, discuss and debate as adults, this will be a stalemate for much longer than we all would wish.

Keep your winter tires on

Jack Frost is here to stay - along with your winter tires

At noon, Thursday, the temperature on the summit of Kootenay Pass was -2 degrees.

What is important about that?

Frankly, an awful lot. 

First, I can’t help but be just a tad ticked off that I am looking out at snow storms still with temperatures occasionally teasing us with very low double digits for half a day.

Second, my equalized payments for my heating bill are completely off base now and…

Third, I can’t take my winter tires off my car yet and neither should you.

I know that the signs say we don’t need them for high mountain passes now, but you would be foolish not to still travel with winter tires on mountain passes and even in the valleys at the moment.

If you have studs, it is a different issue because studs cannot be used on roads after April 30, so you could get a moving violation ticket after that time. But, again, that would be foolish if, as there has been in the past few days, there is snow on the ground.

Let's hope there isn't any snow and cold temps in May.

The reason for not taking winter tires off has to do with one simple issue — temperatures. 

Sure, the snow on the ground and black ice is compelling enough, but simply, regular tires do not “work" well below 5-7 degrees. Winter tires do. 

For a definition of "work," I would simply be thinking about traction — your ability to stop and your ability to stay in a corner once you turn the steering wheel.

These are the two most important things for you to worry about on the highway. 

If you value your car, your life and your passengers, keep the sticky rubber on for a little longer yet — at least until we see double-digit temperatures more frequently.

While you winter tires will offer slightly less traction on a warm road, the differential is not as much as a summer, all season or all weather tire on a cold road.

As we approach what we anticipate being warmer times, consider a spring tune up for your car also. Visit my friends at Big O Tires for advice on when to remove your winter tires and to book the car in for a check. 

Winter can be a brutal time for vehicles. The cold alone is enough to give components a difficult time aside from the fact we have a habit of hitting objects like kerbs that are hidden under the snow.

If your alignment is out, you risk safety and economy as well as the increased cost of changing tires more frequently.

Book a tune up and do a sun dance. Please!


1-handed economist needed

This week, I read a story that CMHC was working some magic statistics in the Okanagan housing market.

I am sure every homeowner is ecstatic now they know that CMHC has told them their single family homes have increased almost 50 per cent in the past 12 months to an average of more than $1 million per single family home.

In the same article, it indicated that single family homes according to OMREB have seen single digit inflation — more realistic in any economy.

American President Harry Truman, in a moment of frustration, once asked for a one-handed economist. He was tired of hearing “well, Mr. President on the one hand this could be happening, but on the other…” you know the answer.

The question is how can we have two such disparate numbers. In taking a look at the current listings, I would immediately refute CMHC’s numbers with nothing other than a quick glance.

Yet, that institution is what guides our government for goodness sake. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. That is a big fancy name that carries a lot of weight.

It carries a lot of weight when it comes to forcing Canadians to qualify on a five-year mortgage rate with an additional two per cent or so.

It carries a lot of weight when the federal government targets regional specific measures to cool heated housing markets — like Kelowna at 50 per cent growth in values.

It carries a whole pile of weight when the NDP government makes nonsensical decisions on arbitrary regional taxation of second homes. 

For goodness sake, it is frankly time that we fired a whole pile of statisticians who seem to have no practical idea of what is happening and get to the bottom of where we are going. 

When I was a realtor, I recall being at an economic development meeting where the city proudly showed off its top industries.

There was confusion and silence when I explained that they were wrong. The biggest industry in town (if anyone cared to crunch the numbers) is real estate.

Why was it left off the charts? Probably because nobody would like to admit it is the most significant industry in town. 

Somewhere between OMREB’s numbers and CMHC’s numbers lies the truth. What I do know is that on one hand, we have a normal looking economy and on the other, we have a super-heated housing market. 

As we get excited about selling our homes for the new and improved value, bear in mind that everyone from outside the province is not reading that headline, they are reading the one that says they are not welcome.

Somebody find a one-handed economist quickly and sort this mess out. 

More It's All About . . . articles

About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for over forty years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business. He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the UK in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
[email protected]

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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