Sunday, January 31, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
On Monday, January 25th the Heart & Stroke Foundation released their annual report on cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Canadians…calling our current situation the "perfect storm" looming in the horizon. The report reinforced earlier findings that we are putting ourselves at increasing risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. The situation is so bad, that prognosticators are stating that parents will out-live their children.
Maybe we are reticent in responding to 'advice' on how to live our lives when we're not one of the 'statistics' identified, and maybe we just think that we're immune to troubles later on in life because we tell ourselves that we'll change. In either case we cannot dismiss some of the statistics in this and previous reports, including:
- CVD accounts for 17% of all hospitalizations
- Up to 80% of premature CVD is preventable
- 9 out of 10 Canadians over the age of 20 have at least one of 10 'risk' factors (overweight, inactive, hypertension, hereditary, et al), 30% have at least 3 factors.
- We know how to prevent CVD, and we also know how to manage CVD
- Over $22 Billion is spent annually in health care and lost productivity (2000)
- Shave 4 ½ years off your lifespan if you have heart disease
Despite the statistics, generally speaking there remains a reluctance to change behaviour towards living a healthier lifestyle. We know that eating a Whopper® will provide 39 grams of fat, (that number jumps to 64 grams if you add the cheese) while eating a homemade burger gives you…well, quite frankly I don't know how much fat…it would depend greatly on how you prepared your meal; what kind of meat you chose; and whether the size was comparable. The one fact I do know is that homemade burgers taste a heck of a lot better than fast food burgers…the problem is that they take way too much time to prepare.
But choosing to consume 'convenience' foods is only part of the concern. In February 2009, the Heart & Stroke Foundation released its Annual Report outlining the striking price variances not only between healthy foods and 'snack' foods, but also pointed out the geographic variances. Examples included:
- 6 apples purchased for $0.90 in Peterborough, Ontario would cost $7.64 in Rankin Inlet, Nunavet.
- A 4L-bag of 1% milk was noted being as high as $15.70
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for 'snack' foods. Pop, chips and other 'convenience' foods failed to demonstrate the same price variances as their healthier counterparts. The pricing variance impacts Canadian consumers so much that as much as 47% of Canadians surveyed stated that they'd occasionally go without items like fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy products, whole grain products, meat, and fish due to the high cost.
Couple the ease of attaining less than healthy foods with a sedentary lifestyle, and you've created some deadly base ingredients for a shortened lifespan. In the HSF 2006 Annual Report, heightened concern was noted on the propensity for inactivity among baby boomers. What disturbs me most about this particular study was that of those surveyed, 81% cited "more funding for projects that would encourage me to be active instead of driving my car" as a factor for changing behaviour. Forget that it is the 'right' thing to do…nope…make sure we're rewarding good behaviour. No reward, no change.
To summarize then…we know that leading an unhealthy sedentary lifestyle, including consuming unhealthy foods and beverages leads to a higher risk of contracting CVD in later years. We know what behavioural changes we need to enact in order to minimize that risk. The question then remains: "What are YOU doing to ensure you live a healthy and long life?"
February 1st signifies the start of Heart Month. Continued research and advocacy is obviously still required to reach a consensus on what efforts are still required to change our behaviours. Through the generous support of your contributions to HSF initiatives, over $73,500,000 was used for research and health education in Ontario alone.
Selfishly speaking I need you to adapt your lifestyle so that more those funds can be spent on research into congenital heart defects. HSF has assisted in the much-needed research geared to heart surgery techniques, and required lifestyle changes post-operative, as well as developing ways to detect heart defects at an earlier stage in life. I've had three open heart surgeries due to a birth defect in my heart…and my only goal in life is to live. For those of you born with healthy hearts, make the necessary change and continue to support the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
To read more on the Report, visit
Monday, January 25, 2010
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
If you have a weak stomach, you may want to exercise caution before reading this particular post. As a matter of fact, if you have a weak immune system, you may want to think twice before you fill your cup with your favourite soda at your local fast food joint.
Apparently someone from Hollins University in Virginia, USA must have thought their cola tasted a little off and figured that perhaps the fountain might be a bit unkempt. So a team of scientist went on a mission to see how clean those self-serve fountains really are, and to serve as a comparative analysis, they looked at a few 'behind-the-counter' fountains as well. Now keep in mind, this study was done in the US…so you can either assume that we Canadians are a fickle (not fecal) bunch, or you can assume that our cleanliness habits are similar to those of our friends south of the border. And not to perpetuate any inaccuracies or misprints, I got my hands on the actual study…so what you'll see here is from the study itself…not a story about the study.
For the purposes of this blog, I'm going to refer to those self-serving fountains…you know the ones…they sit in the lobby area of the restaurant; you order a drink, and the cashier hands you a cup for you to go and fill yourself…I'm going to refer to these as Pop-Overly-Polluted, or POP. The 'behind-the-counter' fountains…the ones that only paid staff can access, and when you order a drink they do all the work and drop down a filled cup of your requested beverage…lid and all…I'll call these POP2.
When you hear the phrase "gathering around the office cooler", it would appear that bacteria mimic our desire to hang out in groups. More than 11% of beverages collected from POP and POP2 contained Escherichia coli, aka E-Coli. If that wasn't a good enough 'ick' factor for you, the report shows that over 17% of the beverages collected contained Chryseobacterium meningosepticum, or loosely translated means: bacteria which causes meningitis. While I'm not sure which is worse…the ickiness of the POP surroundings, or the fact that most of the identified bacteria "showed resistance to one or more of the 11 tested antibiotics".
Like any scientific study, strict controls were set in place and a tonne of documentation was completed. The samples included sugary drinks, diet drinks, and water. To test the contamination against a sample of (what should be) a controlled compliment, they purchased bottled drinks of the identical make up from a variety store. They conducted studies on POP and POP2 to see if there was any contamination difference between the fountains. After they collected their samples and followed a set process for testing, they found virtually no microbial growth in the bottled drinks, however over 70% of POP and POP2 samples had bacterial growth. And, if you thought there might be a difference in the amount of bacteria between POP and POP2…well, you'd be wrong. If you were looking to know which was safer, you may want to consider the time you decide to visit your local eatery. Apparently early morning soda drinkers are exposed to higher bacteria opportunities than those who chose to eat later in the afternoon.
So the next time you make that trip to your local fast food joint, maybe this could be a good argument for getting your drink in a bottle. After all, how many folks do you think lined up at the fountain to re-fill their cup before you took your turn? You'd probably be safer just to kiss everyone in the place instead. (Please don't follow this advice, as there has not been a study to prove whether this is the case or not J)
Sunday, January 3, 2010
The Blue Box has become the household symbol of something good: the presence of a Blue Box in the home of business sends a message that the homeowner or business owner is doing their part to divert waste from a landfill. As a consumer, we feel a sense of worthiness as we deposit our empty bottle or can into a blue box or another receptacle that is labeled accordingly.
Despite the Blue Box format being around for roughly 30 years in Ontario, not all items are recycled, nor do all Municipalities operate a fully comprehensive recycling program. As a matter of fact, not all Municipalities collect blue boxes in the same manner…some have two-stream (fibres such as newspapers and cardboard in one; and containers like cans and bottles in another) blue box system; some have single-stream (everything in one box or more…no separation required) collection; while others have variations of a two-stream system. But how do you know that everything you're putting into the blue box is actually being recycled into something else? After all, that is the true meaning of recycling…having an item (plastic bottle) be transformed into something else (bag) which prevents it from ending up in a landfill.
A statistical term rarely shared in public domains is 'contamination'. In a report published in December 2009 by the Container Recycling Institute, residents who place all of their recyclables in one 'blue box' or single-stream, see the highest portion of their recyclables end up in a landfill versus their two-stream counterpart Municipalities. As an example, on average 40% of glass collected from single-stream collection Municipalities ends up in landfill, compared to nearly none from Municipalities that offer two-stream recycling. Another variance is the contamination of collected fibres, which hit about 15% from single-stream collected Municipalities, versus virtually no contamination from two-stream Municipalities. The statistics are overwhelming…if you're putting out 10 newspapers and 10 glass bottles/jars a week, 1 ½ newspapers and 6 bottles/jars are ending up in a landfill; maybe not your Municipally owned/operated landfill…but a landfill nonetheless.
So why do Municipalities choose single-stream over two-stream collection? Simply put…cost. Less blue boxes to purchase. And, because they don't see all of the wasted recyclables, they don't factor end-user contamination experienced by the factories that process recycling materials. Communities like Hamilton which currently offers two-stream curbside collection will review single-stream collection as an alternative because of the costs…not necessarily because of the efficacy of the collection options and the life-cycle of the collected item.
While the Municipalities sort out the hows and what's of curbside collection, the IC&I sector (Industrial, Commercial & Institutional) continue to be the worst offenders in terms of offering recycling options to their patrons, partners and users. Currently the lowest diverters of waste, sitting somewhere around a paltry 16 – 20% diversion rate, they have the least incentive to provide diversion options. It's more costly to offer a diversion waste stream; collection is performed by an outside company, and sent to a private landfill; waste doesn't ordinarily contribute to the revenue line; and, no one is actually monitoring their disposal practices. Consequently, retail businesses that 'pose' offerings of multi-stream waste collection containers may not actually be recycling…yes, this does happen. And, because the IC&I sector deal with similar companies as the Municipalities, there stands a good chance that items being placed in the recycling bin are ending up in the landfill.
So while you take your time to sort through your garbage, or deposit your waste in the appropriate bin at the Mall, know that while progress has been made to divert waste from landfills, we still have a long way to go to get it right. And don't automatically assume that just because it's in a blue bin or a container marked with the recycling symbol, that your item you're disposing of will be recycled. Studies show that the best measure to ensure complete 'cycling' of recycling is to utilize deposit fees on all bottles and cans. Removing these from the collection streams will go a long way to reducing the contamination of collected fibres.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Ten years ago the fright was on as we were crossing over into a new Century. Y2K became a household term, and businesses spent an inordinate amount of money taking inventory of their electronic inventory, and tagging everything that had a plug. Well we all know how that turned out…
Technology has vaulted our intelligence and accessibility of information to never seen before heights. YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter (among others) provide instantaneous gratification on current events, trends, tragedies, and infamy. Everything is changing faster than our generation is able to understand the consequences, both intended and unintended. Add to this, we've embraced the new 'greening' of our environment, our homes, work, and any other area where environmental change could be implemented, have seen significant impact of change.
The good news is that we've been given the resources to reach the most distant remote areas of the World. We've been able to contact with family members with relative (no pun intended) ease. I know I have certainly taken advantage of this one, as I have amassed 2,230 names of family members stretching across the globe so far. And, I have also been able to connect with them either electronically or through the old-fashioned phone-line.
We could also say that having the latest news stories at our disposal has empowered us to become more interested in the world in which we live. Unfortunately, this also allows for embellishment and sensationalism, as we were able to witness with the 'balloon boy' incident. That story alone demonstrated how vulnerable and gullible we can be when exposed to too much information too quickly. We also were able to immediately share the immediacy of Michael Jackson's death, and feel that we were actually in attendance at his funeral.
Now as we enter the second decade of the 21st Century, news of constantly changing 'smart' phones, computers, and electronic devices continue to arrive in my News Reader, telling me that we've not quite hit our learning potential on how far we can go with the technology available to us today. Without appearing to be a worry-wart, I have to wonder when the other foot is going to drop, signaling the downside of our technological progress. Small examples of 'unintended' consequences have started to creep out, none being tremendously harmful…yet. Because we've yet to go through a generational experience of this technological period, there has yet to be a true measure of our new hi-tech era. We measure each generation through a culmination of years, and currently we are in the supposed Information Age until 2025…although given the speed in which we've progressed, I wonder if we'll hit our target sooner.
Regardless of all we've done, and what we're about to do (technologically speaking), one can only hope that we don't lose our faith in faith, and our 'personability' in being personable. So to that, we should take a moment and write a letter…that is…write with a pen a paper, not print…and mail that letter to a friend or family member. I know it might be a bit nostalgic and maybe a bit immature…yet we need to take a break from the daily intake of change and settle in for a dose of time. Welcome to 2010.