Q:I saw a guy sitting in his car with his engine running for almost an hour. Isn't there a bylaw against idling? Is there any way I can help enforce it?
A:You know what they say: idle cars are the devil's tool. Okay, fine - I made that up, but if they considered the impact of idling on the earth and our lungs, drivers too lazy to turn off their engines would start crossing themselves. Did you know that idling a vehicle for only five minutes creates more than a quarter-kilogram of greengases, the same ones that are melting the ice caps, creating holes in the ozone and killing over 5,000 Canadians a year thanks to smog-related ailments. On the other hand, if every Canadian driver cut back on five minutes of idling a day, we'd save 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from burning up our atmosphere! But it takes more fuel to turn a car on and off then it does to leave it running, right? Wrong. After 10 seconds, it's smarter to turn it off. Even if you're more concerned about salvaging your cash flow than ice flows, cutting back on fossil fuels is pivotal.
A Toronto bylaw limits idling to no more than three minutes in any given hour. But while the city was one of the first jurisdictions to introduce this kind of law, people haven't exactly been prosescuted in droves. In the past five years, about 1,000 warnings have been issued and only 250 tickets given out.
While the city doesn't employ idling ambassadors (who approach drivers with brochures) as Mississauga does, you can call the city to complain about a flagrant idler. Call 416-392-7873 and leave a message with the location and licence number of the guilty party. The city will then send a friendly letter asking him or her to stop all that bad behaving. Just know that if the temperature in a car drops below 5° or rises above 27°, drivers are allowed to keep their engines running.
Q:Is there a way to obtain suits, dress shirts, ties, etc, that meet environmental/fair trade standards for those of us who either need to or like to wear them?
A:We did a whole column on environmentally friendly clothes a while back, but some of our readers felt a little neglected - namely, the ones who need to dress up for work or just like to dress to impress. Sure, a beige hemp T is pretty easy to find these days, but will you wear it to an interview or your cousin's wedding? Probably not. The truth is, spiffing up in eco clothes can be hard to do, since they're so damn hard to find. Men can get basic button-down hemp shirts in earth tones at bigger head shops like Friendly Stranger on Queen and the Toronto Hemp Company on Yonge (starting at $54.95). Beyond that, you pretty much have to head online. Mamasearth.com has hemp golf shirts perfectly suited for business casual offices or hot summer days kissing your boss's butt on the course ($37). Under the Canopy has sweatshop-free silk/hemp blend dress shirts in both short- and long-sleeved versions, as well as sleek mandarin collar shirts (from $97, www.underthecanopy.com).
But a man cannot walk out into the world in shirts alone. To complete that biz casual look, get smart, fairly traded flat-front chinos in a wrinkle-resistant hemp/ramie blend or a hemp/tencel blend. (Ramie, by the way, is an ancient plant fibre, and tencel comes from well-managed trees.) Under the Canopy from $84.
Need a proper suit? You can buy 100 per cent certified organic hemp dress slacks ($132) and matching suit jackets ($186) at rawganique.com. Style them up with one of their oxford shirts in seven funky hues ($99), wrap one of their hemp ties ($26) around your neck and you're set! For a three-piece organic linen suit, you'll have to pay a pretty penny ($687 at www.greenfibres.com).
And, of course, don't forget the spiffy possibilities available at second-hand shops.
Of course, green girls can have trouble finding eco-friendly clothes for work and pleasure, too. Luckily for us, the Web seems to offer more upscale outfits for women than it does for men. Under the Canopy has everything from a super-fly fitted organic cotton cargo blazer ($109) to the perfect little black dress in organic cotton and tencel ($97). Earth Speaks (www.earthspeaks.com) is another funky organic and sweatshop-free Brooklyn-based designer you can order from online. It has an awesome array of high-fashion business jackets and pants, sexy evening gowns and pretty, flippy skirts. And 3 per cent of profits go to eco and human rights groups. For more eco high styles, check out Rawganique.com.
Q:My husband and children leave the lights on for hours at a time when no one is in the room. How much energy are they wasting?
A:Well, it depends on the type of light you're talking about. The truth is (and you might want to cover your kids' ears at this point), the more you turn a light on and off, the shorter its life span. That said, regular bulbs should be turned off as soon as they're not needed since about 90 per cent of their energy is wasted in heat (especially bad in warm summer months, when it could lead to using more power for cooling). On the other hand, if we're talking fluorescent lights, many agree it's only worth turning them off if you leave the room for more than 15 minutes, since they take more energy to start up. Bottom line, for every kilowatt hour of electricity you waste, power plants release about 1.34 pounds of ozone-depleting CO2 into the air. If that fact doesn't convince them, tape pictures of coal plants billowing toxic clouds next to the light switch, or show them a local nuclear power plant safety report. (Scarily, it's not unlike what you've seen on The Simpsons.) Maybe that'll work. If you want to know what you're wasting in cash, check out Hydro One's appliance calculator at www.hydroonenetworks.com/en/efficiency/.
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