A new leaf, a fresh start, think big (ish)


Just as it’s hard to end a year without a “Best-Of” list, it would feel equally strange to start a new year without a Continue reading

You Talkin’ to me? The best free-range, organic Trash of 2018

As sure as the indigestion after a holiday meal, it would be wrong to end the year without a Best of 2018 rundown. And because you’ve already finished everything on your list (or because you’re studiously avoiding your list, we don’t judge), tuck in and enjoy. In no particular order, other than being in the top 18, (click on the pics to jump to the stories)

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Have yourself a merry little drug-free feast

To be clear, we’re talking about what’s on our plates, not about Canada’s newly legal and ubiquitous weed (granted, some clever chefs may have combined the two). Hot on the heels of Nicolette’s Drugs vs. “Bugs”: Antimicrobial Resistance and the Power of Stewardship, let’s shift gears from medicine cabinet to meal.


For the fantastic feasts and where to find them (Sorry, J.K Rowling), ’tis the season of plenty, whatever you celebrate. Unless you’re a vegan, there may be brisket at Hanukkah, or ham at Christmas, or goat biryani at Eid-ul-adah* … plus let’s not forget all the non-denominational festivities like New Years, Thanksgiving and Festivus (for the rest of us). The common theme here is a plentiful amount of meat. Let’s look at what happened before it got to our tables.

The not-so-well-kept secret in agriculture is that farmers can save money by raising more animals in less space. I remember the size of my first apartment … same goes for the COFAs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations). Less space means sanitary issues. Sanitary issues mean illness. Rather than wait for some animals to get sick and treat them, many farmers dose their herds with antibiotics (ABX) “preventatively” and regularly, and even use animal feed with ABX mixed in.

Surprisingly, antibiotics also make animals grow faster, so it takes less time (and money) to raise them. That’s such a tempting offer for farmers. Because of this “magical” ABX power, not surprisingly, about 82% of antibiotics used in Canada are in agriculture. Though some of it is necessary, just like when you or I develop an infection, a lot is what they call “indiscriminate” … preventative or for growth-enhancing purposes.

What farmers gain in efficiency, they lose to the “superbugs” they helped develop. Scientific evidence shows that bacteria are developing antibiotic resistance as a result of ABX use in animal agriculture. These bacterial “superbugs”, resistant to multiple types of antibiotics, can affect both humans and animals.


Why is that a big problem? As Adeline mentioned back in The Drugs in my Food’s Food …

Antibiotic resistance is a major threat to human health … for decades we’ve been squandering one of our most precious medicine, our best weapon in the fight against deadly infections. If we continue our current misuse of antibiotics, we may soon enter a post-antibiotic era. What does that mean to you and me? For starters, transplants will be impossible, heart infections could be deadly, and giving birth will become a lot more dangerous.

So what can we do?

As individuals, look for “antibiotic free” if/when we buy meat. Make sure the meat says “antibiotic free”, and not a wishy-washy claim like “100% natural” (which sounds lovely but means nothing legally-speaking). Yes, it may be more expensive, but extremely worthwhile.

We’ve heard that 40% of all food gets wasted … so if we buy less-but-better meat, and make sure not to waste it, we might come out ahead. It couldn’t hurt to try more plant-based meals while we’re at it, not just for the antibiotics, but for the environmental impacts:


Carbon emissions per person for each diet type image credit: Shrink That Footprint

As nations, we can outlaw indiscriminate use. A lot already have  … hello Europe! Sweden banned it for growth-enhancing purposes way back in 1986. And we have some promising news here in Canada

As of December 1, 2018, all Medically Important Antimicrobials (MIAs) for veterinary use will be sold by prescription only. The responsible use of MIAs is intended to preserve their effectiveness and minimize the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance.

Before this switch, farmers could buy as many antibiotics as they wanted and use them whenever. Now no one can buy ABX without a veterinarian’s prescription, and vets can’t prescribe to promote growth. Though some farmers may have stockpiled, this will help future herds, and the future effectiveness of antibiotics for all. That’s definitely something to celebrate.

Cheers and happy holidays!


*Though Eid-ul-adah is technically in August this year, it is included for its major focus on meat. Eid-ul-adah translates as ‘Feast of the Sacrifice’ (thanks Farzana for the consultation!). People give one third of the animal to the needy; another third to relatives and the final third for home.

Many traditional feast dishes in Buddhism and Hinduism are already vegetarian (and delish!), so not included here.


TTC VIP CHANGES – and the big picture


image credit: BlogTO

Originally, this was just going to be a quick piece about the changes to the TTC VIP program, but then something bigger happened. So that we’re covered, the TTC VIP program, the crowning jewel in our sustainable transportation crown, with over 2.6 thousand UHN participants, is coming to a close. The TTC has chosen to end this particular bulk purchasing plan in December 2018 (or, um, now).

Before I shake my fist in the air, it turns out the TTC hasn’t so much ended this as switched it to PRESTO. If you are on UHN’s or another workplace VIP program, you may even get a complimentary PRESTO card. This make the whole program a lot easier, and with some sweet savings. This version also requires a 12-month commitment, costs $134 per month and provides the same unlimited travel. More here.

Or skip the commitment, load your PRESTO card with cash and pay individual fares. The upside here is you can use the 2-hour transfer … hop on and off the system within a 2-hour period without being charged another fare.

OK, you talked transit, what’s the bigger picture? 


COP24 is the nickname for the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Image Credit: COP24

COP24 is happening this very minute in Katowice, Poland! Reps from around the world are meeting to talk (and act) on climate change on a global scale (gotta be global since climate change doesn’t really get the whole national or provincial borders thing). You probably remember COP21 in Paris, and the landmark Paris Agreement? All the more relevant now.

Why are you talking about COP24 on a TTC post?

Because the biggest cause of climate change is us humans burning fossil fuels. And the biggest burn source in Ontario comes from transportation. And when people switch from driving gas-burning SOVs (Single Occupancy Vehicles) to cleaner substitutes like public transportation, that’s a major win for our climate, health and future. It’s also a win for Toronto’s soul-crushing congestion problem. 


Is this climate change thing that big a deal?

In 1 word: YES. In a few words, Sir David Attenborough (of “Blue Planet” fame) said it best at COP24: “The collapse of civilisation and the natural world is on the horizon”. In many more words, see below. Grab a coffee (fairtrade, organic, natch) and get comfy…

There’s the Climate Transparency Report which works for “Ambitious climate action through country comparisons”. This really appeals to the competitive side of human nature. I hope it works as (spoiler alert) Canadians generate the most pollution-per-person in the G20 … triple the average GHG emissions for G20 countries. Not a proud moment.

There’s the 2018 Greenhouse Gas Progress Report “Climate Action in Ontario: What’s Next?” by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO).

There’s the The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change.

Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Indicators and more on the MOECC site.

And if you look Stateside, they’ve released the National Climate Assessment (even if their leader doesn’t buy it).

Is there a nutshell version?

Livin’ the COG-life (Coal, Oil & Gas, my fancy new acronym) creates the emissions that cause and worsen climate change. When Ontario closed coal plants 5 years ago, that took a big juicy chunk out of our emissions (and out of our smog days, which haven’t happened since). Yay! But we will stall on climate progress unless we look beyond electricity. Transportation is the next big hurdle.

Climate change - 1 page - eco

Image Source: my mashup of graphs from the ECO 2018 Greenhouse Gas Progress Report

After canceling Cap & Trade, Ontario has a new proposed Environment Plan. It looks strangely similar to what they did in Australia (which unfortunately saw more pollution, not less). The comment period is open until January 28, 2019.

OK, this is too big for me to deal!

There’s help out there, especially if you join a Green Team. Or go even further with Carbon Conversations, starting up again in February, with a January taster session! Put the cherry on the sundae and get there with your PRESTO card. 🙂














Water tastes better without the plastic


CCSO Green Team admire their new plastic-free water cooler. Nice!

Normally, the CCSO Green team wouldn’t be able to stand in this spot as the space was Continue reading

#1 in MUSH!

We’ve often joked about acronym bingo, what with all the BRBs, IMOs and OMGs, but have you heard of MUSH? Not the bowl full in Goodnight Moon, but Municipalities, Universities, Schools and Hospitals … that MUSH.

Turns out this is a pretty important category when it comes to energy, since we are Continue reading

Better than Candy, Operation Green’s Supplies Haul

On the day after Halloween, most of us have had plenty of “fun-size” treats. What’s better than going door-to-door for candy? How about going unit-to-unit, collecting medical supplies to donate to communities in need? That’s what our fantastic team from Operation Green does every month.

Nicole and Meghan, the new Operation Green Leads, are both medical students who Continue reading