Five shades of green

Lost or cracked your old sunglasses? Thought of looking for a pair that goes green or gives back? We've got some bright ideas.


RAY-BANS

The world’s biggest sunglasses brand is actually owned by global shades behemoth Luxottica, the monopoly behind everything from Oakley and Versace to Sunglass Hut/LensCrafters and the subject of a 60 Minutes exposé on exorbitant prices. Made of conventional nylon plastic, metals or acetate. Some are made in China, others Italy. Extra N for durability over junkier frames. $155.

SCORE: NN

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REVO ECO-USE

The greenest pick in mainstream stores. Most of the Eco collection uses nylon frames “made in part from the seeds of the castor bean plant” – cool, except the company won’t divulge how much is actually plant-based. Kind of suspect. Their smaller, greener Eco-Use or Re-Use line made of 100 per cent recycled resins scores extra points. It’s yet another China-/Italy-made Luxottica offshoot sold in Sunglass Hut. $249.

SCORE: NNN

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TOM’S

Mostly made of cellulose acetate, which is partly plant-/wood-pulp-based. Scores high because every pair purchased means someone in a developing country gets free prescription glasses, sight-saving surgery or medical treatment through the Seva Foundation. Bonus: Tom’s has the biggest trend-savvy selection of the bunch. Available at Get Outside, Sporting Life and toms.ca. $129.

SCORE: NNNN

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GREEN GLASSES

A brand new BC-designed eco collection of both Rx and non-Rx glasses and sunglasses. The in-house line is made of a biodegradable cellulose acetate from waste wood and cotton seeds. Green also carries cool Hungarian frames made from recycled (vinyl) records or 16mm/32mm movie film for $399. Otherwise made in China. Carbon offset for shipping goes to the David Suzuki Foundation. greenglasses.ca. $159.

SCORE: NNNN

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BOTANY CO.

Another Canadian company, this time selling a small collection of funky wooden frames made of fast-growing bamboo, with optional recycled skateboard arms handcrafted in Canada. Bamboo parts made in China but assembled in Caledon, Ontario. Sunglasses bags handmade locally from organic or recycled material. Fashion Takes Action Showroom, Ecotique and botanycoeyewear.com. $149.

SCORE: NNNN


Green Gadget Of The Week

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SOJI SOLAR TEA LIGHT LANTERN

You can get junky plastic solar garden stakes at any home store, but these hand-blown glass lanterns use a warm white LED, giving you sunshine energy in style. Super-cute on tabletops or hanging on your balcony/patio/tree. No cords required. Soji also does colourful nylon lanterns, too. $26, available at Moss on Danforth and sojilanterns.com.


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Turning toward the light

SolarShare prez Mike Brigham talks up cooperative power

One month after the province announced it was overhauling, some say assaulting, the Green Energy Act, Toronto-based SolarShare Cooperative (financed by supporters buying solar bonds), has just locked in more than a dozen new rooftop solar projects and is on its way to becoming the largest renewable energy co-op in the country. Ecoholic asks SolarShare pres Mike Brigham for his take on the changes, good and bad, facing the green energy sector.

How will recent changes to the Green Energy Act affect renewable projects in the province?

What were previously called “large FIT” projects [all wind, solar, hydro, biogas, biomass systems over 500 kW AC] are being removed from the Feed-In Tariff Program [which sets fees paid for electricity generated by renewable energy], and contracts for the building of such projects will be handled instead under a procurement [bidding] process that is a definite step backwards. Worldwide experience reveals that FIT programs not only create faster growth of renewable energy but also result in a lower costs to ratepayers.

The province has just promised 900 megawatts of extra space on the grid to small FIT projects like SolarShare’s. Should we be celebrating?

The industry isn’t happy with the announcement. It’s pitifully small, and not enough to leave solar module factories anywhere near capacity.

So, will we be gaining or losing green kilowatts overall under the new policy?

Removing part of the FIT program and reverting back to the bidding processes is a step backwards. The positive is that there is an ongoing FIT program and hope that the province’s upcoming review of the Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) will mean renewables will be given a larger share of the pie than currently planned. If all forms of generation are evaluated and external costs (greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, toxic waste, risk to the public, etc) properly accounted for, renewable energy is extremely price-competitive.

We’ve heard of many stalled green energy projects waiting to be tied to the grid. Is the scene improving?

The Ontario Power Authority has offered some concessions to address this problem [but] they will take time. Most of the Ontario grid is antiquated it was designed for a small number of very large generation facilities, whereas the future is numerous smaller facilities, like my own home, which generates electricity from its solar system.

Are more cooperative projects the way to win over the public?

[Cooperatives] reduce resistance, not just because residents have their concerns more fully heard, but also because many become financially invested in projects. In Denmark, there is very little resistance to wind developments 80 per cent of projects are owned by cooperatives.

SolarShare members have invested $2 million collectively. Why should people buy SolarShare bonds?

They’re an example of what’s called “impact investing.” Not only do investors earn a 5 per cent return every year for five years, but they’re also creating new Ontario jobs and building solar systems for cleaner, safer electrical generation without a toxic legacy.


Nature notes

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NO FRACKING PIPELINE

Does Enbridge really need to build a proposed new $623.7 million pipeline pumped full of fracked U.S. natural gas right through the GTA? The company says our rising demand makes the move essential, but as a new report from the Ontario Clean Air Alliance notes (using Enbridge’s own numbers), by increasing its conservation promotion budget by $33.7 mil a year, it could eliminate the need for a new line. Even Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli has just called for conservation over new generation as as a money-saving measure. Join the Council of Canadians, Enviro Defence and others in telling Enbridge we want conservation, not pipelines before the Ontario Energy Board hearings in August.

BAD BANGLADESH LAW

Three weeks after the U.S. suspended Bangladesh trade preferences, Bangladesh officials introduced new labour legislation. This would be good news, says Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson, “if the new law fully met international standards, but the sad reality is that the government has consciously limited workers’ rights while exposing workers to continued risks and exploitation.” The group says the new law will make unionizing more difficult. The move came just days after Walmart, Gap and 17 others contrived what the Maquila Solidarity Network calls a “bargain-basement approach” to worker safety, with no firm financial commitments, no independent monitoring and little transparency on inspections.

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