Sunday, May 31, 2009

Delicious vegan food

Some of you might be thinking that delicious and vegan are mutually exclusive. You'd be so wrong!

I've been doing lots of vegan cooking lately thanks to inspiration from two totally amazing vegan sites. You have to check them out. If for no other reason than the pictures will make you drool. The sites are Vegan Yum Yum and Vegan Dad. Over the last 2 days I've made the following and all were delicious.

From Vegan Dad:
Sweet Potato and Kale Quesedillas
Crispy Cajun Chickpea Cakes
Indian Style Potatoes and Spinach (I used kale)

From Vegan Yum Yum:
Chili Almond Asparagus

I'm using these sites and other veg/vegan sites to help me reduce the amount of meat I eat. After being vegetarian for about 8 years, a few years ago I started eating some local and organic meat. I am now eating meat more than I would like to admit and given the huge environmental impact meat eating has, I'm trying to bring my meat eating down considerably.

Anyone have any great veg/vegan recipes to share?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

How to turn an army surplus backpack into a messenger bag

This is a really easy project done entirely by hand - no sewing machine required!

Originally I had intended to make a camera bag and not a messenger bag. I was inspired to do this by this awesome post on the Wired - How To Wiki. But the bag I got wasn't quite right to make that work. Plus I didn't want to buy that dense foam stuff. So I made a messenger bag instead and hubby is using it as his gym bag.

Here's the finished bag:

Instructions for how I did it are below...

And while we are on the subject of making cool stuff, you HAVE to wander over to Dude Craft. Dudes. This dude is awesome. Plus he aggregates cool stuff made by other dudes (and dudettes). Check it out!

What you'll need to make the messenger bag:
1. An army surplus backpack (or any canvas backpack)
2. A strong needle (or two - I bent one). I used short quilting needles
3. A thimble. Seriously. Think it is the first project I've completed where a thimble was an absolute requirement for the survival of my fingers
4. Some strong thread (I used quilting)
5. Scissors

What I did (sorry these aren't v. precise, and I didn't take pics along the way like I normally do)

  1. Remove the backpack straps (set them aside - you'll need them later)

  2. Unpick and remove the top flap of the back pack (set aside)

  3. Fold the top edge of the back pack down (on the inside) by about 3.5-4 inches (this makes the bag look short and long like a messenger bag instead of tall like a backpack).

  4. Pin and then sew the folded down top edge (I did all the sewing by hand. You could use a sewing machine but test it first to make sure it can handle the thick fabric)

  5. Grab the top flap of the backpack that you removed, and reposition it further down the back of the bag (halfway between the bottom of the bag and the new top edge) and sew the bottom edge of the flap to the backside of the bag

At this point the bag is done. Now you have to worry about the straps.
  1. Grab the two straps and sew them together (this is where you will def. need the thimble) so that you have one long strap

  2. Determine where you will need to cut the slits at each side of the bag for the straps to go through so that the bag hangs correctly. (this is a key step, not doing this will mean having to sew up a slit that you cut in the wrong spot. Trust me.)

  3. Cut a slit on each side of the bag in the predetermined spots that is slightly wider than the width of the strap

  4. Test to make sure the strap will go through the slit

  5. Sew around the edges of the slit to prevent fraying (like a button hole). I used the blanket stitch

  6. Put the strap through the slits on each side and use the buckles from the original strap to hold in place

Done! :)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Final thoughts - OECD ICT conference

Well I've certainly learned a lot over the last 2 days. Including that I can attend a conference taking place in Denmark virtually (kudos to the OECD folks for such a fantastic video connection - superb quality).

Today's afternoon sessions focused on summarizing key messages and recommendations. I'm including them below in their preliminary state (the comments from participants have not yet been integrated).

8 key messages

  1. The current crisis is an opportunity for change towards knowledge-driven growth; ICT is the key ingredient.

  2. The ICT sector can take leadership in a low-carbon economy and drive socio-economic change.

  3. ICT does not save the climate automatically, Business as usual may lead to disaster.

  4. Beyond energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy is important (e.g. for data centers).

  5. A sustainable society is more than a low-carbon economy. There are issues beyond climate change: resources, recycling, working conditions, human rights. We should maximize both "quality of life per bit“ and "bits per nature“.

  6. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a key methodology to measure ICT impacts (first and second order).

  7. In order to stimulate behavioural change, Green IT solutions must be simple and seamless, but should not exculpate users from responsiblity.

  8. Extending the service life of ICT end-user devices is key to reduce the life cycle impact per time.

8 Recommendations

  1. ICT policies and information society strategies must be integrated into climate and environmental policies and strategies.

  2. Green ICT policies must rely on a life cycle perspective (not only consider the use phase)

  3. Support the exchange, standardization and integration of Life Cycle Inventory data.

  4. Develop standardized metrics for net CO2 emission reductions by ICT applications (including 2nd- and 3rd-order effects) and other environmental impacts.

  5. Public procurement should consistently demand for "green“ improvements (e.g. thin client solutions).

  6. To promote Green IT, rely on flagship projects and disseminate best practices.

  7. Governments should lead by example (by using Green ICT solutions in public administration, including instruments such as Green ICT scorecards and reducing the energy consumption of public buildings)

  8. Fiscal tools should be used to stimulate investments in energy efficient technology and to set up the system environment for positive third-order effects.

These are of course, recommendations at the governmental/industry level.

At the individual level, my take away is that these policies and plans require all employees of governments and industry to take this green (ICT and otherwise) message to heart. This is the new way of working and we need to be engaged and help our governments and industries meet their targets.

I know I'm buzzing with ideas for possible green ICT campaigns at my office.

This is where the rubber hits the road.

Governments paving the way - OECD ICT conference

In the keynote speeches yesterday we heard about the aggressive greening targets that have been set by the Korean government in their recovery package.

Perhaps key in this plan is the development of an ultra green, 1 Gbps wired (10 Mbps wireless), 2-way, broadband network. This network will allow Korea to reach the goal of having 20% of public institution employees teleworking by 2013, and will make possible the development of sophisticated tele-education and telemedicine. It will also improve the speed of transmission of environmental information and will be used along with other ICTs towards, among other things, the intelligent management of rivers to measure and respond to pollution.

There are even plans for smart work centres which will allow for CO2-free commutes by locating the centres in such a way that cycling and walking to work is facilitated.

In these ways it is clear that Korea is taking to heart the need to address the 2%* and the 98%** that have been regularly mentioned throughout the conference.

All of this is very exciting.

And while it is true that Korea is really leading the way, they are far from being the only country making strong targets in regards to emissions reductions, and the use of ICTs in that effort.

The EU has made a commitment to have a 20% reduction in emissions by 2020 (from 1990 levels), also known as the 20/20/20 Plan. Many governments plan to go even further - Norway for example is targeting a 30% reduction.

Germany has developed a very strong green ICT plan as has Denmark. Both of which I am hoping to obtain a copy of.

The UK government has developed a Green ICT Scorecard which contains 18 actions that the UK govt CIOs must deliver on. These actions will be measured against 10 mandatory targets. The results of this scorecard will be released on July 22, 2009. The UK government is also taking a strong stance on the need to include the full lifecycle of energy consumption of ICTs when accounting for carbon emissions of ICTs. I was pleased to hear specific mention of the need to increase the lifecycle of ICTs to their natural demise and of reducing the number of ICTs in use (one device to one employee).

While I didn't get the answers I was hoping for in terms of how to get over the implementation barriers to start making change at the front lines (e.g. in our offices, our homes etc), that wasn't really the point of this session.

The point, and what was made clear, is that these governments are serious about reducing their CO2 emissions in regards to the use and enabling of ICTs.

It was very clear that this is not just lip service. These are real goals and commitments and all countries (OECD and others) should take note.

As Minister Sander mentioned in his opening address:
"The OECD countries are the richest and most advanced economies in the world. This status comes with great opportunities and great responsibilities.
We must lead. If we do not, no one will follow."

Hear! hear! :)

*2% of the global carbon emissions come from the usage of ICTs
*98% is the area of opportunity where ICTs can be used to reduce the emissions of other sectors (outside the ICT sector)

Lots of information at OECD ICT this morning!

So much in fact that I want to share a number of links:

There has been a lot of discussion about the importance of improving data centre efficiency. The EU has developed a code of conduct on this subject that appears at first glance to be quite comprehensive.

As expected the 2% figure that accounts for the contribution to global emissions from the ICT sector has been frequently mentioned. But there was another figure noted that was new to me. That is that the ICT sector could enable emissions reductions of 15% (or 7.8 Gt CO2e) by 2020. The figure comes from a report called Smart 2020. This report makes a key note that the ICT sector "must keep its own growing footprint in check and overcome a number of hurdles if it expects to deliver on this potential".

Google highlighted the efforts that they are undertaking to green their operations. And also noted a number of green ICT initiatives they are involved with such as Climate Savers - smart computing and Power Down for the Planet.

For anyone who is not attending the conference but is interested in the discussions, all the presentations are available on the OECD ict site (cilck on room1 and then click on the presentations tab). They may not be available once the conference is over though.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rules for addressing a crisis and mottainai - OECD ICT conference

This morning, former Prime Minister Esko Aho outlined his 7 plus 1 rules that he used to address the serious economic situation Finland was facing in 1991.

These rules really resonated with me. Especially as it was noted that they would be equally useful in addressing the climate crisis. They are:

1. Work with the worst case scenario - take facts seriously
2. A strategy is required to move forward
3. Gov't interventions in the finance sector should be brief and should promote structural changes
4. A crisis is an opportunity that allows for radical reforms
5. Don't eat (or reduce funding for) "seed potatoes" such as education and R&D
6. Take advantage of the mobility issues that come from a crisis (not just physical but also mental mobility)
7. Be patient - don't expect changes overnight

and the plus 1 - Politicians - don't think about the next election.

Also during the opening addresses (although this time during Botaro Hirosaki's speech), I learned of the Japanese term 'mottainai'. Mottainai is a feeling of regret about waste when the intrinsic value of an object or resource is not properly utilized. It was quite something to discover there is a single word that sums up my motivation for embarking on my carbon footprint reduction project.

After such a thought provoking first day, I'm looking forward to tomorrow's sessions. I'm hoping that during the 'gov'ts paving the way' session we will learn how the barriers to implementing green ICT solutions can be lifted. For indeed there must be barriers as these existing solutions have not been implemented throughout the majority of the world.

Innovation and behaviour change at the OECD ICT conference

Photo care of: Photo Mojo

The factors that contribute to behaviour change have long been an interest of mine. While I try to never preach when discussing my personal carbon footprint reduction efforts, that does not mean that I am uninterested in affecting change on a large scale.

In the afternoon session of today's OECD ICT conference, the behaviour change that was discussed centred around green ICT and innovation.

Green ICTs are often discussed in terms of first, second and third order. A desciption of these effects is below (courtesy of D. MacLean):
  1. first order or direct effects – e.g., the use of ICTs as a tool for monitoring and measuring climate change, assessing its effects, and controlling interactions with the environment

  2. second order or indirect effects – e.g., the use of ICTs as a medium for increasing awareness and facilitating dialogue about the effects of climate change

  3. third order or systemic effects – e.g., the use of ICTs as an enabler for “networked governance”

It was this 3rd order that Heather Creech from the International Institute for Sustainable Development focused on. Heather explained that we need to open up the decision making process at the industry and gov't level so that individuals can participate. She specifically mentioned Anne Marie Slaughter's concept of networked governance, that would allow connections to be made to solve shared problems. Heather noted however that this cannot happen without the help of ICTs.

Heather also highlighted Thomas Homer-Dixon's research on 'open architecture democracy', noting that cooperation on behalf of governments will be required to break down silos, and that to accomplish this we need a new generation of broadband.

The most useful take-away I gained was when Heather noted that behaviour change will come when we take green ICT solutions to the individual. But that for it to work, end user training is required AND the solutions have to be simple to use and integrate. Heather cited the example that the shift towards support of anti-smoking did not come from an information campaign. It came instead with the release of the nicotine patch. Green ICT solutions such as smart grids and homes need to be as simple as that.

Other presentations included Klaus Fichter with a business case for thin client and server based computing, which provided a lot of persuasive statistics and a lively discussion. I will perhaps write more about the possibilities for thin client later. Suffice to say that in certain applications and environments there appear to be significant savings. While it may not be right for every application (graphic design work was noted as a poor application for the implementation of thin client), there is still a lot of possibility for using this technology to reduce emissions. Details of Klaus' research can be found here.

The last presentation of the day came from Martin Curley from Intel.
Martin spoke about ICT Innovation for future environmental applications and provided a green IT maturity model that is being developed by the Innovation Value Institute which will assist in collectively identifying the greenest practices in green ICT. I look forward to following the development of this model.

An inspirational start to the OECD ICT conference

As I sat in front of my computer this morning at 3am, all I could think of was how lucky I am to have the opportunity to attend this conference!

How often does one get to hear a former prime minister, and prominent members of industry and government from around the world, speak about greening. Not only greening but greening of, and using, IT. A subject near and dear to my heart.

The key messages from the keynote presentations were:

1. the ICT sector has a key role to play in the climate and economic crisis
2. innovation and international collaboration is required
3. a results based measurement framework is needed to evaluate and ensure emissions reductions.

But the talk was not solely of concepts and frameworks. Japan and Korea shared elements of their plans which will produce substantial carbon emissions reductions. Korea's stimulus package was highlighted as being the most green of all the OECD countries. Indeed it was stated that their package is "all about green". These countries are really leading the way.

My favourite quote from this morning comes from Esko Aho, Executive Vice President, Nokia; Former Prime Minister of Finland.

"we are poised to transform years of rhetoric into action - we need to change the way we work...the way we live"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Green IT and the OECD

I don't talk a lot about the work that I do from 9-5. The short version is that I work in IT for the Canadian gov't.

Lately I have been extremely lucky to be able to combine my passion for greening with the work that I do in IT. For the past 4 months I have been co-leading a task team responsible for planning and implementing a green IT vision for my department.

Along these lines I'm planning a number of blogs next week on what we have implemented so far and our hopes for further greening. Some of the things are really easy - things that anyone who uses a computer and is interested in greening and/or reducing costs would want to do. So stay tuned - it's going to be good. :)

In the meantime I'm excited to announce that I've been invited to be the conference blogger for an OECD conference - ICTs, the Environment and Climate Change. Besides being honoured, I'm just really excited to attend the conference. For those who are interested, the program of events is here. I'll be attending the following sessions (in addition to the keynotes and roundtables):

  • Reducing environmental impacts during the ICT life cycle

  • Innovation and behavioural change

  • The ICT sector in focus

  • Governments paving the way

I've been doing a bit of background reading and I'm happy to learn that the framework that we have built for greening IT at my work is in line with what is being discussed on an international scale. That is, green IT is about not only greening the IT that is used (it is estimated that 2% of the worlds energy use is for IT), but also about using IT to enable green practices (esp in infrastructure, and urban development).

I'll be doing the blogging here and I've told the organizers that I'll do 3 blog posts a day so I'll do my best to ensure that I don't get too technical. I'm hoping to learn a lot and I'm looking forward to sharing.

If you aren't sold yet, here is a tweet from @OECDtweet "What have Google and Greenpeace got in common? Find out at OECD mtg in Denmark, 27-28 May: (live webcast)"

Aren't you intrigued? Don't worry, I'm attending that session. :)

And yeah, did you notice? The conference is in Denmark. Yes the Denmark that is 6 hours ahead of Ottawa. I'll be attending virtually so that means a 3am start time for me.

Cross your fingers I'm coherent!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

When the cooler is full,

and you buy too much stuff at the farmers' market, you have to improvise!

This is a great way to keep greens fresh without refrigeration. Works for herbs too. On the left is arugula and on the right is swiss chard. Both bought yesterday from the Organic Farmers' Market. The swiss chard is starting to wilt so I'll be cooking that up tonight. But the arugula is going strong.

Hopefully soon I'll have some greens growing in the garden so I will just be able to go out and pick what I want when I want it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Garden update

Thanks to everyone for the help on the raspberries! I went with a multi-pronged approach and have been pulling off leaves that are in bad shape AND making sure they are getting enough water. The leaf situation has not gotten worse. I still don't know what's doing it but it seems to be under control.

Sadly, the gooseberries are another story. I wasn't so worried about them at first - I knew they were getting eaten but I knew what was doing it. Chubby green caterpillars. I figured I could see them, so I can pull them off.

Easily 400 squished caterpillars later and I am about to admit defeat. There are just so dang many of them. The plants are pretty decimated. Is a real bummer because they are covered in tiny gooseberries which I'm assuming won't turn into anything without the leaves. Here's an example of the damage. About 60% of the plants look like this. Just sticks. :-(

Ah well. You win some you lose some.

In other garden news the broad beans I planted in the ground a few weeks ago are pushing up through the soil (and I've covered the area with sticks to try to prevent the squirrels from digging them all up).

I've also planted 5 types of heirloom beans (3 bush and 2 pole): Scarlet runner, Ozark, Hopi black, royal burgundy and Thibodeau du Compte Beauce. And two types of peas - regular shelling pea (I forget the offical name) and Spanish Skyscraper (I'm hoping to increase the garden yeild by making better use of vertical space. These peas are supposed to grow to 7 feet).

This weekend I'm hoping to pick up some tomato seedlings at the farmers market and I've got 54 seed potatoes sitting beside me sprouting away. Soon they'll be planted in some awesome potato towers built by hubby. Actually they will probably be in all manner of containers because 54 is a crap load of seed potatoes!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My new favourite method of transportation

This is my bike. I love this bike. I love it because it has a basket in the back I can put my purse in. I love it because nothing is quick release so I don't have to worry about wheels, the seat etc being stolen. I love it because my best buddy (@resultsjunkie) bought it for me for my birthday from a second hand bike shop.

And now I love it because for the last 2 weeks, this baby has been getting me to work and back. No more 1hr, 2 bus commute. Now I have a 45 min ride. 10km each way (yes, I'm slow but it only has 6 gears and my legs are laz-y!). Half of it along Ottawa's fabulous bike paths. So instead of listening to teenagers on the bus...

"you know, I like, really love the number 33"
"totally, that's like, one of my favourite numbers. Actually, that IS my favourite number!"

Now I get to see a Dad and daughter sitting on a bench reading books. And baby canada geese. And flowers.

I put this off for such a long time because I was scared of riding through downtown traffic. Even after mapping out a really great route, it still took me a year to take that first ride.

I can't believe I let my fear get in the way for as long as I did. Carbon free transportation, that is faster and more fun. Love it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

What's eating my raspberries?

I've been closely monitoring my raspberries this year because every year I get fairly major leaf damage. This year I am determined to beat whatever is eating them. I had assumed that the problem was spider mites. So I dutifully mulched and made sure they got lots of water (not hard since we've had a good amount of rain so far this spring).

But that hasn't seemed to have helped. I went out to check on them tonight and this is an example of what I found:

You can't quite tell from the picture but the damage is 'lace like'. For the most part there are no big chomps out of the leaves like caterpillar damage (which I'm used to - I had to squash countless caterpillars on my gooseberry bushes this weekend). I looked under a lot of the leaves and found some strange fly things that looked like baby mosquitoes. I also found one small brown beetle-like bug that the size of a large pin head.

Any suggestions on what it is or what I can do about it? It hasn't seemed to affect the plants much (they are spreading like crazy), but I think it is affecting my yield.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A volunteer!

Was digging over the main vegetable patch last night (was mixing in some compost to give the soil a boost), and almost dug up this little guy!

Never had a pea volunteer before.

I let him be and planted some broad beans next to him. First planting of the season. :-)

Next on the list of things to tackle - thinning the raspberries that are starting to take over.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Foraging in my backyard

If you haven't done so already, I strongly recommend wandering over to Unstuffed to read all about the wild foraging course she is attending.

In her first class this week, she learned about fiddleheads (among other things). Apparently you can tell the edible ones (the Ostrich ferns) from the others by the deep groove they have in the stems.

I have always wondered if the ferns I have in my backyard were edible. So I had a look and, yep, deep groove in the stems. Woot!

Unfortunately most of them were too far gone:

However I found this one hidden under the fence (some of them were too small to pick but some were perfect). And I found a few others that were just right in bundles of ones that were too far gone.

I found enough in fact to make a small snack. Here's the end result after boiling and tossing in butter and some chopped chives (also from the garden).

They were delicious!

Thanks Unstuffed. Looking forward to learning more. :)