September, 2014, Tuwanek, a hamlet located on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia was rattled when one of its dozen or so houses burned to the ground. The owner’s lives, Will Richardson and Karine Chevarie, were unpredictably changed and they had to start again. The house was insured so a simple rebuild was possible, yet the result would not replace the memories or the attachment that had developed over the years. So Will and Karine came up with a plan that would hold true to their values and create a new home that would also create new memories and attachments in the process. They would rebuild their home from local resources.
During one of my conversations with the couple, Will figured “Take a tree that’s already down rather then cut down another.” This view is mirrored in all the materials gathered to build their new home. The range of recovered local resources is extensive. Windows, doors, toilets, sinks, electrical boxes, wiring, wood stoves, appliances, and so on.
Some materials used are more sentimental in value such as the old support beams from Will’s Elementary School that were pulled from the demolished debris before it was hauled off to the dump.
Exotic materials were salvaged such as Old Growth timber that was pulled from a stump pile in a clear cut logging area just before it was about to be doused in gasoline and lit on fire and burned to ashes.
Creativity was also used to create practical works of arts. In a shower stall one wall is a sheet of glass that they splattered with paint then laid another sheet of glass over the paint splatter. This led to a very inexpensive decorative wall as the glass was purchased for a few dollars from a resource recovery centre and the paint was what was left in a couple of cans – see photo. This artistic solution is in contrast to going to the local home hardware store and purchasing tiles that are manufactured on the other side of the world, and are expensive to purchase and install.
I toured their house, which is still under construction, talked with Will and Karine and then reflected on the experience and my observations. These people are not only saving a lot of money, they are living examples of how to build memories, create sentiment, create value, maximize available resources while having a minimal impact on the environment.
They are using resources that would otherwise be destroyed or lost in a garbage dump. They are reusing and adding value rather than using something once and then disposing of it. They are circulating money within their own community; thereby, creating local jobs rather than spending a lot of money to bring resources in from other parts of the world. They are a model of resourcefulness while working within their community and the environment.
I look forward to seeing them when their creation is completed and getting caught up over a locally crafted beer in front of their recovered wood stove.
The Sunshine Coast Salmonid Enhancement Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to sustaining and building salmon and trout stocks in local waterways and facilitating public education regarding Salmonid habitat and life cycles. In their efforts to improve their impacts on the environment the Society decided to pursue the Greenomics Zero Waste Certification program. The Certification Program is based on the foundational principles established by the Zero Waste International Alliance and Zero Waste Canada.
The program includes a comprehensive review of key business functions including Leadership, Innovation, Supply Chain, Operations, Products and Services, and Reporting. After the review a certification level is determined along with a summary report that identifies specific steps for improving and gaining a higher certification rating. The Chapman Creek Fish Hatchery successfully achieved a rating of Silver and is already engaged in steps to reach for Gold or Platinum!
David Burnett, Executive Director for the Hatchery, was delighted with the results and particularly appreciated the report with steps for improvement. “We strive to enhance our operation on a daily basis and with the steps identified in the Zero Waste Certification Report we have a clear path to follow that will help us improve!”
Erich Schwartz, Greenomics’ President noted, “We achieved everything the program was designed to do. Save money, increase revenue and improve the environmental performance! I look forward to reviewing their operation next year and seeing just how much they have achieved! This is a classic Case Study and the management and volunteers at the Hatchery are key to this success story.”
Greenomics is a consultancy that offers professional services in sustainable business practices including Strategy, Greenhouse Gas Management, and Zero Waste programs and Zero Waste Certification.
In a letter from Malcolm Brodie National Zero Waste Council Chair and the Mayor of Richmond, Greenomics has been officially accepted as a member of the National Zero Waste Council (NZWC).
The National Zero Waste Council is a leadership initiative bringing together governments, businesses and non-government organizations to advance waste prevention in Canada. Founded by Metro Vancouver in collaboration with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in 2013, the Council has united, among others, five of Canada’s largest metropolitan regions – Metro Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Edmonton – with key business and government leaders, academia and non-profit organizations in a call for national action and systems change to address waste generation.
Erich Schwartz, Greenomics’ President noted, “We have a significant issue with waste across Canada and the world that can only be addressed through collaboration with all levels of government, businesses and individuals. We have a lot of work to do but we are now constructively addressing waste issues. We of course are looking forward to doing our part. Here, on the Sunshine Coast, we have several community members who are leaders in environmental challenges and we have a lot to share with the rest of the world. We need to leverage that grass roots community by working together.” He added “There are a number of initiatives in which we are engaged including the development of our Zero Waste Certification Program which we will be launching within weeks!”
Wayne Harjula and Miyuki Shinkai have been evolving their glass blowing studio, Mellon Glass, since 1996. By evolving, I mean they have consciously moved away from industry trends by creating hand formed drinking glasses from discarded bottles and jars. These drinking glasses are distinct from a number of perspectives in that they; support community engagement, use materials that would otherwise be crushed or recycled, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create local employment opportunities in a small community.
The evolution of their glass blowing practices were built upon Wayne’s experience growing up in a small scale farm where he learned to be resourceful, reuse or repair things, and be environmentally aware. From this foundation, Wayne has always been concerned about waste and has become very much involved in promoting Zero Waste and developing solutions to move toward a Zero Waste society. Wayne had heard of the “Glass Mountain” and finally got to see it first hand at the Gibsons Resource Recovery Centre located in Gibsons, BC, Canada and owned and operated by Buddy Boyd and Barb Hetherington. Buddy and Barb are leaders in Zero Waste and are board members of Zero Waste Canada. They have cooperated with Wayne in helping him develop his glass prototypes by supplying the bottles and jars for Wayne’s experiments.
Creating drinking glasses from the “Glass Mountain” was not enough for Wayne, as he also wanted to use the seductive medium to constructively engage the community. To do so, Wayne engaged local merchants and individuals to develop distinct glasses with a message that increased awareness of the environment, the community, or anything else of cultural importance in a positively engaging way. For example, one of the first creations was a Zero Waste glass with a picture of a pig. Another more politically oriented series include the words “Delete, delete, delete!” which refers to an extensive series of emails being deleted by the ruling political party in British Columbia (See inserted picture). Further opportunities to engage people is through local merchants developing their own line of glasses that may reflect the street on which they are located, the town, or any kind of distinct personally derived theme they fancy. Think Knitting or Seed Bombs.
In addition to being able to make large numbers of the same glass themes, Wayne has reduced his greenhouse gas footprint by 95% due to the unique heating process for making his glasses. Of course, as demonstrated by much of the work done by Greenomics, a consultancy in sustainable business practices, a reduction in green house gas emissions correlates directly to reductions in operating costs. Thus, Mellon Glass has reduced its gas bill from approximately $24,000/year down to $1,200/year. Plans are also underway to capture the excess heat used to create the glasses for heating bottle washing water, warming homes, and meeting other energy needs. Zero Waste applies to energy too.
While Wayne explained in his unassuming and humble manner the processes that led to his up-cycled glasses, I realized that what was really being described wasn’t the glasses at all. Rather, it was more an expression to build community, explore and learn together, be respectful of our environment, and seek greater meaning. In other words, to create an attractive and lifelong alternative to the mainstream consumerism that is alienating and destroying our environment. The glasses are one example of creating something that is functional, captivating, environmentally sensitive, and brings people together.
We need your perspective. Please read and see survey at end of this post. Thank you!
What happens when the perception of how animals are treated appears to be different than reality? Do we shrug and simply accept the reality, or do we step up to the plate and seek answer in hopes of improving their conditions? At Greenomics, we argue that one of the benefits of pursuing sustainable business practices such as being able to demonstrate efforts to improve the environment, improve the treatment of animals, or improve social conditions leads to increased profitability. Those who do not pursue such practices lose market share and acceptance by consumers and will progressively become less profitable. So, here is a test of that argument and a test in the power of blogs and social media. In this case, it is a fowl tale of perception versus reality and how a company does not seriously address the concerns by going silent.
JUST THE FACTS PLEASE
We have been sitting on this story since May, of 2015 to enable the company in question plenty of time to properly respond to our concerns related to the treatment of their product, which is poultry. The story begins simply enough with the purchase of a whole specialty chicken that was touted as being fed with good quality grains, no hormones, no antibiotics and are processed carefully., We purchased this chicken purposefully because we like to support companies that offer alternatives to the mainstream factory food products with their use of growth hormones, antibiotics, forced feeding and general mistreatment of the animals. However, once we started to prepare the chicken for the BBQ, we discovered evidence of mistreatment prior to death.
Once we removed the plastic wrapper, we immediately noticed what appeared to be a bruise on the skin of one of the bird’s thighs about the size of a dime. We peeled back the skin and found that the flesh underneath was also bruised and covered an area about the size of a loony. Although concerned, we continue the process of preparing the bird by bucking it up into pieces such as legs, breasts, and wings.
As we cut the bruised thigh away from the body, we were quite disturbed from discovering coagulated blood around the joint and the primary vein that leads from the body into the leg.
Clearly, this animal had received a blow from a blunt device though we can only speculate what that device might have been.
While having a negative impact on our appetites, we decided to continue the process out of a concern for waste and respect for the life given for our meal. We tried cooking it, however having sampled a small portion of the bruise it was stringy, bad tasting and when combined with the daunting appearance of the cooked coagulated blood we decided to feed it to the crabs. (We were anchored in a remote cove.)
We took our pictures through the process which we include in this post, and sent an email to the Customer Service representative at Heritage Farm. We specifically stated:
We are concerned about the processing methods currently used in terms of the animal’s experience.
We assume you are concerned about the impact on the quality of the product and how it impacts people’s dinner quality.
We assume your company is interested in hearing of these issues so that improvements can continue to be made to ensure the humane treatment of your animals and the quality of the product.
We were pleased to get an almost immediate response, although the language seemed a little practiced and the offer suggested the point may have been missed:
“I would like to thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention. At Heritage Farms we take animal welfare very seriously, and I will be looking into this. Quality is important to us, as is customer feedback. Would you like us to send another whole Chicken to Clayton’s for you?”
The result we wanted was an explanation of how this could have happened and what is being done to prevent it from happening again, not simply get a replacement bird (a mindset that is oddly discomforting). Similar to “Sorry I killed your Labrador retriever, here’s another one just like it.”
Pointing out that we were more concerned about improved conditions and offering help was not replied to for three months. We followed up by asking if any progress had been made, and got a similar response about how Heritage Farms takes the treatment of its animals seriously and that they continue to take the matter seriously. Adding “I believe the issue has been addressed, as I have not had a complaint about any similar instances of this occurring, however it is an issue that I will continue to monitor closely.”
We proposed an inexpensive third party certification program, offered by the SPCA, as being a cost effective and credible approach to ensure the birds are treated well. Having a third party certification would reduce any misperception of messaging versus reality. That suggestion was offered in the first week of September, 2015, and there has been no reply since. We sent a follow up email asking for an update in early February 2016, 5 months later, and again there was no response. So, this series of events has been unfolding for 9 months without any signs of progress.
We have been concerned about posting this experience as we do not want to do harm, but if we are to see improvements then we cannot simply remain silent and let this pass into the forgotten.
We have our perspective, but would love to hear yours. Please take this 4 question multiple choice survey and help us get a pulse on what is and is not acceptable. It will take about 30 seconds.