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A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

On our way back from Fairmount Bagels, my son and I came across these two dolls at the Diesel Surplus store on St. Laurent boulevard. I took pictures because this was the first time that I had ever seen South Asian male dolls modeling underwear. I probably wouldn't have batted an eye if these dolls had been of women. When I got home, I showed the pictures to my husband, who works in advertising. He sees this as a simple advertisement for men's underwear with a weird twist.
"What do you think of the buff bodies?" I asked.
"They are selling underwear," he said.
"I just can't recall seeing any South Asian men with that body type or wearing so few clothes," I said. "What about the two different skin tones? Isn't that insulting? Don't you think that it could be suggesting that lighter skin is an ideal?"
"No," he said. "There are South Asians that have that colour of skin. I think that it was more insulting when different races were not represented at all in mainstream advertising."
"But aren't lighter skin tones the minority?" I asked.
He shrugged.
"Okay, then, what about the blue eyes?" I asked.
"The blue eyes are weird, and that's where it fails," he said.
"And both the dark- and light-skinned doll have blue eyes."

Somehow, I think that advertising types can explain their use of South Asian dolls as inclusion. But what about the blue eyes? Is this another way of promoting the impossible fair-skinned, blue-eyed beauty ideal. Or is this just another way of getting our attention through provocation? Or is it part of Diesel's Be Stupid advertising campaign? Well, someone's stupid.
You tell me reader.
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NFB: Learn the ABCs of Animation

Little known fact, the National Film Board (NFB) offers group activities for children (aged 7 and up) and their parents to learn the basics of animation. Last week, my daughter and I made our way down to the NFB at De Maisonneuve and St-Denis to take part in a two-hour workshop on cut-out animation. For those of you unfamiliar with cut-out, just think South Park.

The theme of this session was Guerre des tuques, a film by Roger Cantin et Danyèle Patenaude. We were given some instruction ahead of time, specifically about breaking down movement. An important concept: it takes 24 frames to make 1 second of film. In groups of four, we had to think of a very short segment related to our theme, draw a four-framed storyboard, and then make our own cut-out characters. In the studio, two oil painting backdrops were supplied for filming. The photo in the top left is one of the backdrops we used, minus the props and clay characters. The process for filming a short sequence is much longer than one might think, and strangely enough, my seven-year-old caught on much more quickly than I did. My husband says that some people just have an innate sense of how to break down movement.

The cost of the workshop was $7 for adults and $5 for children. In addition, you have an hour of free viewing in the CinéRobothèque before the class starts. This is an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon with your kids. Below is the fruit of our cut-out labours. The NFB also holds clay animation and a recycling-animation workshops.

video
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MomActivism: Reply from McDonald's Canada

As some of you may recall, two weeks ago I took my children to McDonald's for a Happy Meal. While my children ate their lunch and played with their collectible toys, I looked at the packaging and was surprised by how much of it was actually post-consumer recycled paper. You might even say that I was impressed until I realized that there were no recycling bins. I went home and called the corporation to find out why.

Last week, the McDonald's Canada Communications Manager, Eastern Region, returned my call. I explained to him briefly that I was a blogger who was curious about why there were no recycling bins at any of the McDonald's restaurants. He addressed this issue by stating just how much recycling was actually being done behind the counter. I told him that I was aware of that already (See MomActivism: McDonald's Canada), but that I was interested in the recycling that we could actually see.

"The problem," he said, "is that we have little control over what happens on the other side of the counter, and there are issues of contamination."

Contamination is always an issue raised with recycling. As soon as an item, such as paper or plastic is soiled, it loses it's recycling value.

"The plastic can still be washed," I said, "And soiled paper can still be composted," But the manager continued to explain that on the employee side of the counter, McDonald's can enforce strict rules to ensure that recycling efforts are maximized, which is not the case on the consumer side of the counter. He then went on to describe the new "green" McDonald's built to LEED specifications in Beauport, Quebec. Although impressive, I was more interested in getting an answer to my initial question.

I also asked the Communications Manager about the composting pilot projects producing both compost and energy that were mentioned on the Mcdonald's Canada website. I was interested where these projects were and when they had started. He said that he didn't have those details on hand, but he directed me to a website where McDonald's environmental projects around the world were listed. He also mentioned McDonald's "one meal, one napkin" campaign to reduce the number of napkins used, and the fact that the napkins were no longer bleached. I responded that I had indeed noticed this.

I then asked him about McDonald's role in reforestation in Canada. After all, according to McDonald's Global Best Of Green 2009 report, over 85% of McDonald's packaging is made from paper or paper fibres.The resource is renewable, but someone still had to "renew" it. The response was that paper was used because it was biodegradable, and not all municipalities have the same composting and recycling capabilities. This is true, and I know this from the research I did into the Tim Horton's paper cup, but I was interested in reforestation efforts in Canada.

The Communications Manager directed me again to the website with the McDonald's environmental projects around the world.

Before saying good-bye, I rephrased my original question,
"You must understand that my children have to recycle everywhere, at home, at school, at grandma's, yet at McDonald's, they don't have to. That's sending the wrong kind of message. So what is your answer regarding recycling bins at McDonald's?"

His answer, "We're working on it."

McDonald's Global Environmental Website

Now, I perused the McDonald's Environmental website and the Global Best of Green Report 2009 for at least an hour and found nothing on McDonald's reforestation or composting pilot projects in Canada. I did read about the green McDonalds being built to LEED specifications, and the fact that McDonald's napkins and take-out bags are no longer bleached white. Where have I heard that before?

What I found most interesting was that in Brazil, Germany, Switzerland and Japan, they have recycling sorting bins! In fact, in Germany, they have attained a 90%* recycling rate at their McDonald's restaurants by using a system of colour codes. Wow, sounds like they have a viable solution right there.

You might also want to bear in mind that the McDonald's Corporation reported $1.22 billion in profits last year. They have the means to support recycling and show some social responsibility by modeling environmentally friendly behaviour.

Sources:
Global Best of Green 2009: Building a Better Business Through Effective Environmental Practices Throughout the World
*pg. 16 of above document. It starts at "McDonald's is often viewed as generating a lot of waste."
About McDonalds
McDonald's Canada
Globe and Mail

Previous posts:
Sad Ending to An Otherwise Happy Meal
MomActivism: McDonald's Canada

Related posts:
Mom Activism: Raising Retail Awareness about Eco-Friendly Packaging
Plastics: of the 3Rs Your Best Bet is to REDUCE
Part 1: Tipping Point of Tim Hortons Paper Cup
Part 2: Tipping Point of Tim Hortons Paper Cup
Part 3: Coming to Grips With Change
Part 4: Success is Not All Roses
Tim Hortons: Some Freshly Baked Environmental Solutions
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Hard Times and Used Books

Last August, I did my annual "spring" cleaning and attempted to get rid of what we seem to accumulate the most--books. I got over any emotional attachment I had to my books several years ago, as our shelves started to warp under their weight. We made it a yearly habit of setting aside two days to visit some used book stores to unload some of our preloved friends. Day 1 was the Molière route. We visited a few stores on Mont-Royal, always a few bucks to be made there. Day 2 was the Shakespeare route, which took us to the McGill ghetto, St-Viateur and Park Avenue. Our last stop was always the Chaînon, a neighbourhood charity store, on St-Laurent, where we unloaded all the books that no one wanted. This year, however, the stores on the Shakespeare route were just not buying, even the new releases.

At the last English bookstore, I still had 13 English books, but like the previous two store owners, this one shook his head.
"Those are great books, but no one is buying any right now," said the owner, as we stood next to our car on the sidewalk on Park Avenue. The fact that he said my books were great gave me a glimmer of hope. I hesitated before putting the books back in the trunk, leaned against the car and looked him in the eyes. He relented.
"Tell you what," he said, "I'll write you a cheque for $50.00 postdated for October 1."
Well, that was good enough for me. I was relieved just to hear that I wouldn't have to donate a trunk load of books. Our Molière route had only yielded about $30. I happily hopped into the passenger side of the car with the cheque in hand.

However, at the end of September, I received a message from the store owner. As it turned out, he did not have the necessary funds to cover the cheque. He wanted to know if I could hold off a little longer. I agreed with a sigh. In December, I went ahead and cashed the cheque, which bounced. The bank penalty followed shortly thereafter.

On a cold, dark January afternoon, I trudged through the snow back to the used bookstore with my cheque and the insufficient funds notice. As I walked into the shop with the jingle of the bell, a short bald clerk looked up at me wide-eyed, exhaling smoke. He quickly extinguished his cigarette, fanned the smoke and shoved the ashtray under the table. As I walked over, I noticed two fluffy tabbies sleeping on the table pushed into the space by the store's bay window.

The clerk walked past several piles of books, knocking a few over. As he reorganized the pile, I briefly explained my situation to him. When I told him about the insufficient funds notice, his spread fingers came up over his mouth.

"But why did you cash the cheque!?" he asked.
"Well, I sold him 13 books in August. The cheque was for October 1," I said incredulously.
"Oh shit! Now, we're going to have to pay the bank $25," he said.
I stood there speechless, suddenly feeling as though I had done something wrong.
"Just a second," he said, and disappeared behind a curtain that appeared to be separating the bookstore and a residence. As I browsed, I could hear muffled conversation in the next room. It started out quietly. Only one person was talking, presumably the clerk. The owner asked a few quick questions, the clerk answered. Then I heard, "Fuck, hostie*!" and a slam of something, a cupboard door perhaps. The cats sprang from the table, heading for cover. I trained my eyes on the curtain, which was swinging back and forth.

A few minutes later the clerk emerged from behind the curtain.
"I'm sorry," he said. "We really haven't had any customers lately. In fact, you're the first customer I've seen in days."
"I'm sorry. The owner called me the last time to tell me not to cash the cheque. When he didn't call, I assumed that I could go ahead and cash it," I said.
"Never mind," he said, waving his hands. "Just take a few books, and I'll write you an IOU for $30. Come back next weekend, and the owner will pay you then."

Luckily, the selection of books on this particular day was great, and I left a few minutes later with six books and the IOU ironically penned in red ink. Suspecting that my chances of ever seeing the outstanding $30 were indeed slim, I chose to wait a few weeks to see if some more good books came in.

In the end, I'd played my cards right. I never saw any cash, but I got more than my money's worth in great books, which leaves us with the same problem--warped bookshelves.

I guess now is the best time to start visiting the neighbourhood library.

* To those of you who have never been to Quebec, "hostie" is indeed a communion wafer served up at mass on Sunday. It's about as intense as saying "fuck," and usually not said in front of small children.
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Part 3: Eco-Entrepreneurs Do the Right Thing

A few years ago, la Boîte Gourmande opened at the corner of Rivard and Laurier East. A stone's throw from my daughter's school, this café is the perfect venue for homework and people watching. After tasting the latté and reading one of the four Montreal dailies the restaurant carries for its customers, I was hooked.

The site of the new café was once a bank, and the new tenants decided to keep the vault and change it into a kid-friendly room, complete with chalkboards, toys and books. Along with a few paintings from a local artist, you will see some old doors used as wall coverings. In addition, among the eclectic collection of wooden tables and chairs, you may find yourself sitting on what appears to be a church pew, or you can opt for a seat on the retro orange sofa, set against a floor to ceiling window.

I quickly discovered that Hélène Marquis and Alexandre Simard (chef extraordinaire) used local, organic ingredients whenever possible and served their takeout food in containers that were recyclable in our municipality. Another hit with parents, la Boîte Gourmande does not serve soft drinks. They also have a self-serve ice water station with reusable cups and a recycling bin, which is so rare in most cafés.

One day, I commented on how pleased I was to see that my takeout containers were recyclable.
Hélène said, "Choosing to reduce our ecological footprint was a conscious decision. The only thing I haven't been able to do away with is the plastic stretch wrap for the sandwiches."

She showed me her takeout cutlery, which is usually made from #6 plastic and cannot be recycled in the greater Montreal area. She held up two sets of cutlery in front of me. "These are made from potato, and they come from China," said Hélène, showing me the first set. "But I have opted for the second set from a supplier in Virginia. They don't travel as far, we're supporting our neighbours, and they're still biodegradable."

Now, as you may have guessed, prices are higher here than at other café-restaurants, but you'll find that's a moot point after you taste the quality of their offerings. I stopped in there two weeks ago and had superb chicken Provençal. Alex is a fabulous chef, and Audrey and Hélène make wonderful desserts and baked goods. They also have child- and adult-sized servings, and adults can order a child's portion if they so wish.

Like the other eco-entrepreneurs I have written about, Hélène, Audrey and Alex love what they do. This is evident not only from their smiles and flock of regular customers, but also by how good their food tastes. By the way, these eco-entrepreneurs also use the services of Compost Montréal, our eco-entrepreneurs in Part 1 of my three-part series.

If you're in the neighbourhood with your laptop, la Boîte Gourmande also has Y5 Internet access.

Other Eco-Entrepreneurs:
Part 1: Eco-Entrepreneurs Do the Right Thing (Compost Montréal)
Part 2: Eco-Entrepreneurs Do the Right Thing (la Gaillarde)


Related posts:
Why we should compost--Even Urbanites
Meet the Clean 15 (Produce with lowest pesticide levels)Evironmental Working Group Updates its Dirty Dozen (12 fruit and veg with the highest pesticide levels)
Buying Local: Vegetables Year Round
Plastics: Of the 3 Rs, we should REDUCE
3 Simple Q&As about Children and Pesticides
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MomActivism: McDonald's Canada

In my previous post, I had contacted both McDonald's Media and Non-media Relations to find out why there were no recycling bins in its restaurants. The company spokesperson called back the very next day and left a message. Hopefully, I will be able to speak to him on Monday.

In the meantime, I decided to firm up some questions. I went back to the company's website to do some more research. I discovered that 95% of the cardboard used behind the counter was recycled and that McDonald's was the largest user of recycled paper in its industry. Under the heading Environment: Recycle, there is a picture of two men standing outside a McDonald's restaurant, watching a dumpster being unloaded into a green garbage truck with the golden arches logo on the side. Funny, this was the first time, I had ever seen a green McDonald's garbage truck. On the same page, it states that the restaurant chain has "undertaken a number of composting pilot projects" in recent years, but no dates or locations of such projects were given. Please bear in mind reader, soiled paper products cannot be recycled, but they can be composted.

The website also points out that "food waste is converted to compost material and energy." This would suggest that the company conducts two different types of composting: aerobic and anaerobic. However, before you can compost, you have to have a sorting system to separate food scraps from the plastic and wax-coated paper. So again my question: why aren't there recycling bins in McDonald's restaurants?

There's no doubt that recycling requires more work. You have to take the time to wash recyclables, you often have to sort them, and then they have to be taken out to the street. But everyone I know does this. McDonald's is a large corporation with 1,400 restaurants nation-wide and is one of Canada's largest employers of youth, employing some 70,000 people. It has the financial means to set up sorting stations and wash its plastic containers.

I believe that a restaurant chain that targets our children with its clown and toys and later entices them with the independence of employment should be setting an example and reinforcing the values that we establish in our homes. Although I recognize and applaud the corporation's efforts on the other side of the counter, it still needs to model socially responsible behaviour where we can actually see it.

Research tip: When researching a company always check the Investors' and Media sections of the website. You will often find some very interesting facts that are not disclosed in the sections intended for the general public.

Source:
McDonald's Canada

Previous post:
Sad Ending to An Otherwise Happy Meal

Related posts:
Mom Activism: Raising Retail Awareness about Eco-Friendly Packaging
Plastics: of the 3Rs Your Best Bet is to REDUCE
Part 1: Tipping Point of Tim Hortons Paper Cup
Part 2: Tipping Point of Tim Hortons Paper Cup
Part 3: Coming to Grips With Change
Part 4: Success is Not All Roses
Tim Hortons: Some Freshly Baked Environmental Solutions
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Sad Ending to an Otherwise Happy Meal

On a cold bright Sunday morning, I took my children to McDonald's to treat them to a happy meal. As we went to the condiment table to pick up the requisite ketchup, now in bulk dispensers (good!), I noticed the "one napkin, one meal" sign atop the napkin dispenser. As I took our three-napkin quota, I noticed that our paper friends were not bleached white but beige, more environmentally friendly. I was intrigued at this point, and while my children were playing with their cute little Vancouver Olympic toys, which were wrapped in number 4 plastic, a plastic recycled in our municipality, I had a look at all the packaging.

The happy meal box was made from 100% recycled paper, a minimum of which is 50% post-consumer content.In addition, there are games on the box, which extend its useful life. The kids' drinks were in waxed paper cups, which can be composted at some facilities. Ditto for the fries and cheese sandwich wrappers.

I didn't go for the low-cal salad option, as I probably should have. I had the 560-calorie quarter pounder (yes, beef...sinful) with the 360-calorie fries. But to hell with the calorie counting, I was more interested in whether our meals would wreak havoc on the environment, not me hips.

The cardboard carton for my quarter pounder was made of 50% recycled paper, 35% of which was post-consumer fibre. Very good. However, my cardboard fry box had no such indication, which leads me to believe that it's a single use container.

Now, I know that you're expecting me to be critical of McDonald's Canada for its packaging practices. But in fact, I was thrilled when they got rid of their polystyrene shells. I realize that it's so last millennium, but we don't go often. Today, quite surprisingly, apart from the polystyrene lids (number 6 plastic), the plastics used at the golden arches can be recycled in our municipality. Bravo! And I applaud the "one napkin, one meal" program. What's more, I surfed the McDonald's Canada site and discovered that the company had abolished its domed plastic lid and spoon for its shakes. Behind the counter, the company has also reduced the weight of its corrugated boxes and increased the size of its shipping containers to minimize the amount of packaging materials. In terms of packaging, McDonald's Canada appears to have given the environment some due consideration.

Now, this is all wonderful, but at the conclusion of our meal, we noticed that there were no recycling bins. I asked the supervisor. No, I was not blind. There were no recycling bins. Now reader, you tell me: What is the point of using recyclable materials, if they're going to a landfill site? Am I wrong to think that this is a half-baked solution?

What's more, what kind of message does this send to the happy meal customers? Our children recycle at home and at their friends'. They recycle at daycare and school. They see the owners at the Boite Gourmande, our neighbourhood café, openly practise the three Rs in addition to composting. But then, at the neighbourhood McDonald's, the remnants of an otherwise happy meal are thrown in one big trash can!

Like most children, my kids love Ronald McDonald, and it's time that this clown realized that as a purveyor of small collectible toys and fries, he is also a role model for our children and should be modeling responsible consumer behaviour.

Now, I told my husband this info this morning. He realizes that I'm NOT a few fries short of a happy meal, I just need a plausible answer. So today, I contacted both the McDonald's Media and Non-Media Relations. A very polite Josée promised to make some inquiries at head office and then would get back to me. In turn, I promise to pass on the message to you....I'm waiting.

Related posts:
Mom Activism: Raising Retail Awareness about Eco-Friendly Packaging
Plastics: of the 3Rs Your Best Bet is to REDUCE
Part 1: Tipping Point of Tim Hortons Paper Cup
Part 2: Tipping Point of Tim Hortons Paper Cup
Part 3: Coming to Grips With Change
Part 4: Success is Not All Roses
Tim Hortons: Some Freshly Baked Environmental Solutions
Read more »