Latest posts in Queen of Green

Electric car FAQs, part two

March 23, 2017 | Leave a comment
Photo: Electric car FAQs, part two

Electrifying transportation is a far better option than continued reliance on fossil fuels. (Credit: Lindsay Coulter)

My "Five electric car FAQs" blog asked "What else would you like to know about EVs?"

Steve Kux, David Suzuki Foundation renewable energy and climate solutions policy analyst, answers your questions:

Is an EV's electricity use environmentally destructive?

It depends how your electricity is produced. Burning coal or natural gas releases carbon emissions and contributes to climate change. In November 2016, the federal government announced new regulations to phase out coal power by 2030. Ontario — the biggest electricity consumer — phased out coal power in 2014. Much of Canadian electricity comes from hydroelectric power. So in Canada, EVs are better for the climate than vehicles that burn fossil fuels.

Won't EVs increase demand for electricity?

Yes. We need to produce more electricity from non-emitting sources to meet future needs without worsening climate change. Electrifying transportation is a far better option than continued reliance on fossil fuels. EVs are three times more efficient at turning stored energy into motion than conventional vehicles and so also waste less energy. Wind and solar are cheaper alternatives with fewer long-term issues than nuclear power.

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How to make all-purpose spray cleaner

March 17, 2017 | 1 comment
Photo: How to make all-purpose spray cleaner

Keep a bottle under the kitchen and bathroom sinks, in the cleaning closet, etc. (Credit:

Most of us are exposed to cleaning products and their residues every day.

Some contain harmful chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive disorders, asthma and severe allergies. Symbols, like the skull and crossbones, warn us about acute hazards. Labels include words such as "poison," "corrosive" or "irritant."

But Canada does not require warnings about chronic health and environmental hazards of chemicals in cleaning products.

I can't tell you all ingredients to avoid, because product manufactures aren't required to disclose them. Some manufacturers disclose them voluntarily.

Read labels. Avoid these when shopping for store-bought products:

  • Scented cleaners which may contain synthetic "fragrance" or "parfum"
  • Anti-bacterial cleaners which may contain "triclosan"
  • Coloured cleaners which may contain dyes

Better still, make your own!

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Seven tips to help pollinators

March 9, 2017 | Leave a comment
Photo: Seven tips to help pollinators

Make sure the plants you purchase are pesticide-free. (Credit: Koris Moir)

Native bees and honeybees are still facing decline.

You've already done so much — made a bee bath, started a mason bee house, built a bumblebee house, even kept a messy yard! I quizzed Shelly Candel, director of Bee City Canada, about her top tips to help pollinators.

Tip 1: Choose native plants. Pollinators are best adapted to local, native plants, shrubs and trees. (I suggest joining a native plant society to find the best local plant lists.)

Tip 2: Get rid of your lawn. It's a desert for pollinators (and most wildlife). Transform it into a pollinator paradise! (I suggest getting your lawn off grass, growing sunflowers, and keeping a mud puddle.)

Tip 3: Bee bountiful. Plant big patches of each native plant species for more efficient foraging (it's less distance for bees to travel). This can also boost curb appeal with big patches of colour to attract both pollinators and humans.

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Help end forced child labour: Choose fair trade goods

February 28, 2017 | 3 comments
Photo: Help end forced child labour: Choose fair trade goods

Many people know to look for fair trade chocolate, coffee, tea and bananas. But you can also try fair trade lip balm, flowers, clothing and sport equipment! (Credit: Lindsay Coulter)

In an ideal world, stores would only carry goods that are healthy for people and the planet. Until then, we must read labels and choose with care.

What does fair trade mean?

Fair trade helps promote sustainable agriculture around the world. Farmers are paid for what they grow based on internationally recognized standards on wages, labour rights, working conditions and prices. The practice supports farming co-ops, housing, and health and safety standards. Fair trade also means no child labour (workers under the age of 15, as defined by the International Labour Organization).

The dollars you spend on fair trade products allow children to go to school, provide safer working condition and help communities thrive. The fair trade certification system also prohibits GMOs and limits the use of agrochemicals.

What fair trade products can I buy?

Coffee: It's the second most traded commodity on Earth after oil! Growers have cleared millions of acres of land worldwide. They often use toxic pesticides and GMO varieties to increase production. Songbirds that summer in Canada usually spend winters in coffee-growing latitudes. Our coffee habits threaten a lot of their habitat! Help birds and other species. Choose coffee that has been triple-certified: fair trade, organic and shade-grown.

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A carpooler's etiquette list

February 17, 2017 | Leave a comment
Photo: A carpooler's etiquette list

Make ground rules about eating, drinking, music, phone calls etc. during the commute. (Credit: Washington State Department of Transportation via Flickr)

It's almost two decades since I was in a regular work carpool. Our commute was one hour each way. We were a group of five, so each person drove one day a week.

Carpooling is cost-effective and reduces carbon emissions. If you can carpool, here's an etiquette list to help you all have a smoother group ride:

  • Select a convenient meeting/pick-up spot that's safe and easy to get to by bike or public transit
  • Show up on time
  • Share a contact information sheet
  • Make group agreements or ground rules about eating, drinking, music, chatting, phone calls etc. during the commute
  • Keep a schedule and track driver turns
  • Go scent-free
  • Drive smart
  • Agree on a cost per trip for those without vehicles
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