Tag Archive | Business

Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery: Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle with Non-GMO Products

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          Although Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery is located in Abbotsford, BC, its real roots can be traced to the Silver Hills Guest House wellness resort in the Okanagan Valley of BC. The Silver Hills Guest House purports the benefits of a vegan-friendly diet as a means of achieving a healthy and holistic lifestyle. Not long after the wellness resort opened in 1989, the resort staff discovered that they were unable to find wholesome, all-natural bread that fit their vegan dietary values. Brad Brousson, who was on the wellness resort staff at the time and who later became co-founder of Silver Hills Bakery, recalled a way of baking bread that his mother had taught him using sprouted grains. Silver Hills decided to make its own unique sprouted bread; the demand for the Silver Hills sprouted bread grew; and Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery was born.

        The process of sprouting grains consists of cleaning, rinsing, and soaking the grains in water until they begin to sprout. This process allows the grains to release their valuable nutrients. Silver Hills Bakery then mashes the sprouted grains into dough that is used to make their specialty sprouted bread.

        Silver Hills’ bread is healthy in a number of ways: The bakery’s products are organic, vegan, gluten-free and free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). The Silver Hills production facility is certified organic by QAI (Quality Assurance International), an independent regulatory agency. Also, the Silver Hills staff regularly tests all ingredients for GMO contamination, which means that the customer can be certain that no GMO ingredients will ever be used in Silver Hills products or sold in their retail store outlet.silverhillsbread

        In order to understand what makes a product non-GMO, general knowledge of what makes a product a genetically modified organism is required. GMOs are plants and animal species created through gene splicing or biotechnology (also referred to as genetic engineering). Most genetically modified plants were created to be resistant to pesticides and extreme temperature ranges (such as drought) for the purposes of improving nutrition and producing higher crop yields. Advocates for the GMO movement declare that GMO crops are more nutritious than non-GMO crops. Moreover, they argue that GMO crops are environmentally beneficial and aid in addressing world hunger. In many cases, however, GMO crops have demonstrated the opposite of these intended effects; they have instead raised many questions about consumer and environmental safety. In the United States and in Canada, governments have approved GMOs for use based primarily on studies conducted by the companies that created the GMOs (companies that will, subsequently, obtain profits from their ongoing sale and distribution).

       A number of crop strains are deemed to be at risk of being GMO (because they have, at some point, been bio-engineered). These include alfalfa, canola, corn, papaya, flax, rice, oil, yellow summer squash, soy, zucchini, and sugar beets. The bread-making industry often uses ingredients derived from these risk crops, such as citric acid, flavorings, sucrose, amino acids, sugar, yeast products, vitamins, and vegetable oil. Animal byproducts such as meat, eggs, milk, honey, and other bee products are at risk as well due to potential contamination from feed and other input factors. Wheat itself wasn’t considered an at-risk crop until the discovery of GMO wheat in an Oregon field in May 2013.

     As a part of its mission of promoting a healthy lifestyle, Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery joined the non-GMO movement. Silver Hills uses only non-GMO ingredients. These include amaranth, apples, barley, buckwheat, hemp, khorasan wheat, oats, millet, pumpkin seeds, rye, quinoa, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, whole grains, and spelt (a grain that is higher in protein than wheat).

To visit the Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery website, click here.

To learn more about GMOs and the non-GMO movement, and to read a list of companies that have joined the non-GMO movement, click here.

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Sole Food Street Farms: Fresh Produce in Urban Settings

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Established in 2009 by United We Can, enterprising nonprofit Sole Food Street Farms expanded upon the United We Can goal to create employment for inner city residents who have multiple barriers to traditional employment. Sole Food founders Michael Ableman and Seann Dory not only wanted to increase employment in lower income Vancouver neighbourhoods; they also wanted educate employees and communities in general about sustainability and the benefits of fresh produce.

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is known for high rates of poverty, drug use and sex trade activity. The founders of Sole Foods scoped out this area because they saw its transformative potential. Dory acknowleged that “the lot we [Sole Foods] are on was a dump surrounded by an active sex trade” but that “urban agriculture projects have the potential to really change the face, the dynamics, of the city.” Sole Foods has done so and continues to do so by transforming vacant urban land into street farms that grow artisan quality fruits and vegetables; empowering individuals by providing them with employment; and building a supportive community of farmers and food lovers by offering agricultural training.

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Sole Food developed a system of raised moveable planters that can be stacked on a truck with a forklift and moved. This method is necessary in order to isolate the growing medium from contaminated urban soils, allow for production on pavement, and satisfy landowners who cannot make valuable urban land available on a long-term basis. Sole Food’s seeds and plant varieties are chosen based solely on taste and aesthetic quality, and all Sole Food produce is grown using the highest organic standards.

Sole Food’s fresh produce is available at farmer’s markets, local restaurants and retail outlets. “We envision a future where small farms thrive in every neighbourhood, where good food is accessible to all, and where everyone participates in the process,” says Ableman. “Sole Food is helping to fulfill this vision by marrying innovative farming methods with concrete social goals.”

To visit the Sole Food Street Farms website, click here.

To read The Canadian Organic Grower’s 2011 article on Sole Food Street Farms, click here.

Stratus Vineyards: First LEED-Certified Winery in the World

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In May of 2005, one month before its official opening, the Niagara-on-the-Lake business Stratus Vineyards became the first LEED-Certified winery in the world (certified by the Canada Green Building Council). To become LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, a business must meet a number of criteria. The essential requirements for an LEED certification include taking steps to reduce negative impact on the environment both during construction and on a permanent, operational basis.

 Recycled materials were used in the construction process of Stratus Vineyards whenever possible. In addition, environmentally responsible features were incorporated into the building. These include a super-insulated roof; geothermal technology to heat and cool the building; resource and energy efficient electrical and plumbing systems; and a toxin-free waste management program. Native plants and flowers were used in the landscaping process for their ability to thrive without the support of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Even the type of stone that was used to pave the parking lot—a stone that reduces light-reflected heat—was chosen for sustainability purposes.

 Charles Baker, Director of Marketing for Stratus Vineyards, remarked that “Stratus Vineyards recognizes the growing demand from a concerned public that the wine community contribute to the ever-increasing need for responsible environmental behavior.” Certainly, Stratus Vineyards provides a prime example to other vineyards as a business not only innovative in the way it crafts its wine (blending several grape varieties to create wines of complexity) but also in the environmentally friendly initiatives it has taken that led to its LEED certification.

To visit the Stratus Vineyards website, click here.

To read the GreenBiz article on Stratus Vineyards, click here.

Corus Entertainment: Delivering Entertainment in a Sustainable Way

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In addition to being one of Canada’s most successful integrated media and entertainment companies, Corus Entertainment has received accolades such as being among the 2013 list of Canada’s Greenest Employers and the 2013 list of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers. The company owns 39 radio stations and delivers numerous television services, and it does so in a sustainable way.

Corus Quay, the new Toronto headquarters for Corus Entertainment, has implemented a number of eco-friendly initiatives. The building is accessible by public transportation, and the company encourages sustainable forms of transportation by offering 75 tenant-exclusive bicycle racks. Moreover, Corus Entertainment has taken steps toward water and energy conservation. The company has installed low-flow water fixtures throughout the building and a rooftop cistern that collects rainwater, initiatives that have resulted in Corus Entertainment reducing water consumption by upwards of 30%. A Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI) system has been installed throughout the interior of the building, which consists of occupancy sensors that provide light only when someone is present and a daylight harvesting technique that dims the ballasts when natural light is abundant. These system features have reduced the amount of energy required by the lighting system by upwards of 30%. Energy efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment that is programmed based on solar exposure, location, occupancy, and space utilization has also been installed in the building. Also, carbon dioxide sensors have been installed to measure the approximate number of occupants in a particular area at any given time—information that is used to determine the exact amount of ventilated air required in a specific area, thereby reducing the amount of energy required for the HVAC system.

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During the Corus Quay construction process, more than 75% of construction waste was diverted from landfills by salvaging materials for reuse and recycling. In addition, upwards of 20% of the materials used in the construction of Corus Quay’s interiors were made from recycled content, reducing the amount of energy required in the production of the materials. Upwards of 10% of the materials used were both extracted and manufactured locally. The wood wall treatment in the Orientation and Atrium space is reclaimed hemlock from a 1910 ferry terminal wharf in Toronto Harbour. The use of local goods and materials promotes the growth of local businesses and reduces the energy required to transport materials and products to the construction site.

Corus Quay features green rooftops that help reduce the heat-island effect. It also features a five story biowall in the Atrium. The plants that compose the biowall naturally clean the air and reduce energy consumption, improving air quality in the building.

To visit the Corus Entertainment website, click here.

To learn more about Corus Entertainment’s sustainability initiatives, click here.

Nature’s Path: Charting a Path to Sustainability

natures-path-logo-largeThe name speaks for itself: Nature’s Path is a company based in Richmond, BC that sells healthy, organic foods, specifically breakfast foods. However, Nature’s Path is more than a manufacturer and distributor of organic foods; it is also a company that aims “to advance the cause of people and planet, along the path to sustainability.” The Nature’s Path team has done so by signing the Sustainable Food Trade Association’s Declaration of Sustainability in 2008. The Sustainable Food Trade Association measures companies under the Declaration of Sustainability according to a number of factors, including: 1). Organic and land use; 2). Distribution and sourcing; 3). Energy use; 4). Climate change and air emissions; 5). Water use and quality; 6). Solid waste reduction; 7). Packaging and marketing materials; 8). Labor; 9). Animal care; 10). Sustanability education (internal and external); 11). Governance and community engagement.

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Nature’s Path’s sustainable and environmentally friendly accomplishments are numerous. Nature’s Path has been able to divert 92% of its waste from landfills; reduce the use of electricity, paperboard, and C02 per pound of product shipped; empower employees to take ownership of sustainability and green initiatives through Self Directed Work Teams; and keep 204,000 pounds of chemical pesticides out of the soil. In addition, Nature’s Path has launched a program called ‘Bit4Bite’ that has commited $1 million to North American food banks, and the company has donated $2 million in cash and food to the hungry.

To visit the Nature’s Path website, click here.

To read a comprehensive list of Nature’s Path’s sustainable practices, click here to view the 2011 Nature’s Path Sustainability Report.

To learn more about the Sustainable Food Trade Association’s Declaration of Sustainability, click here.

Symcor, Inc: Mixing Finances and Forestry

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Symcor, Inc., one of Canada’s largest outsourcers of financial processing, is on the 2013 list for Canada’s Greenest Employers. This list is compiled annually with four core criteria in mind: (1) the unique environmental initiatives and programs the organization has developed; (2) the extent to which the organization has been successful in reducing its own environmental footprint; (3) the degree to which the organization’s employees are involved in these programs and whether they contribute any unique skills; and (4) the extent to which these initiatives have become linked to the employer’s public identity and whether they attract new people to the organization.

Symcor has received the honor of appearing on the Canada’s Greenest Employers list previously in 2011 and 2012. Symcor’s print facility has won awards at the Canadian Printing Awards for Canada’s Most Environmentally Progressive Printer in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Symcor has made a notable contribution to the environment by partnering with Acres for the Atmosphere. Acres for the Atmosphere is a global initiative led by the American Association of Zookeepers and Polar Bears International and focused on reducing carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere. The main areas of activity for Acres for the Atmosphere are reforestation, energy conservation, stewardship, and utilization of recycled goods. Symcor has been involved with the Acres for Atmosphere project since 2010, and the financial processing company has helped to plant in total 1,681 trees on three acres. Symcor’s impressive contribution is equivalent to removing twelve passenger vehicles from the road per year.

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Beyond its participation in the annual Acres for Atmosphere tree planting project, Symcor has implemented energy reduction initiatives and subsequently reduced its carbon footprint by offsetting about 600 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Symcor has engaged in projects to reduce heating, cooling, and water consumption through the use of motion sensors, timers, and efficient temperature control units. Moreover, Symcor is committed to the mantra of Reduce! Reuse! Recycle! In conjunction with the Lions Clubs of Canada, Symcor participates in the RECYCLE for Sight program, which sends used eyeglasses to developing countries to help those in need and reduce waste in landfills. In addition, Symcor can assure its customers that certified paper procured and processed through its operations is from certified designated forests that promote responsible forest management practices. All of these environmentally friendly projects and practices have helped Symcor continually meet the criteria for the Canada’s Greenest Employers list.

To visit Symcor’s website and learn more about their contributions to the environment, click here.

To read an article about Symcor’s most recent appointment to the 2013 list of Canada’s Greenest Employers, click here.

North America’s First Zoo Biogas Plant to be Built at the Toronto Zoo

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ZooShare Biogas Co-operative Inc., a non-profit renewable energy co-operative, is set to develop the first North American zoo biogas facility at the Toronto Zoo. Biogas is a type of renewable energy that converts organic waste into energy and fertilizer using a process called anaerobic digestion. The specific types of organic waste that the ZooShare Biogas Co-operative will use at the Toronto Zoo will be animal waste and food waste from local grocery stores. The animal and food waste will be converted into electricity, heat and fertilizer, benefiting both the local community and the environment.

The process of anaerobic digestion begins with the waste being fed at regular intervals into an anaerobic digester. ZooShare Biogas Executive Director Daniel Bida likens the anaerobic digester to a big concrete stomach, wherein the organic waste is heated to 38 degrees Celsius and continuously mixed. About sixty days into this process, the waste is transformed into biogas (which consists of 65% methane and 35% carbon dioxide gas) and digestate (fertilizer). The resulting biogas can be used to create electricity, piped into the natural gas grid, or converted into vehicle fuel, and the fertilizer is suitable for farms or backyard gardens.

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Biogas has a number of benefits:

  1. It can generate electricity for twenty-four hours a day and for seven days a week.

  2. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

  3. It diverts waste from landfills.

  4. It can be produced from any organic waste source.

  5. The end product is a nutrient-rich, odour-free fertilizer.

Construction of the Toronto Zoo biogas plant is slated for July of 2014, which could make the plant operational by December of 2014. The plant will consist of input and output tanks, an engine room and a classroom. All in all, it will occupy one and a half acres of the zoo’s land.

Although the construction cost is estimated at $5.4 million, the benefits of the biogas plant will be worth the cost. The 500-kilowatt plant will provide enough electricity to power over 250 households. In addition, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12,000 tonnes (the equivalent of removing 2,100 cars off the road).

To learn more about the ZooShare Biogas Co-operative, click here.

To read The Toronto Observer article on the ZooShare Biogas’ Toronto Zoo project, click here.

Freshair Boutique: Winnipeg’s First Certified Green Salon

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After Freshair Boutique owner Praise Okwumabua had two children, she began to notice just how badly the hair industry affected the environment. She established Freshair Boutique in 2010 with the goal of putting “the best you together, while doing the least damage possible to the earth and ourselves.” She recognized that there were ways her business could help the environment while helping customers with their beauty concerns.

Shortly after opening Freshair, Praise was able to get a green business certification for her business. She managed to do so by using environmentally conscious products that are sourced and manufactured in Winnipeg. All of Freshair’s shampoos and conditioners are free of harmful chemicals like parabens and sulphates, and most of its products are made with 100% natural ingredients. Freshair also offers recycling programs to its clients.

 The motto Praise adopted for the boutique was: “Reclaim your beauty, restore your individuality, rejuvinate your perspective.” The Freshair philosophy is that looking good is a large part of feeling good and that taking care of yourself physically and being aware of the environment that you live in should, and can, work together.

 To visit the Freshair Boutique website, click here.

 To read more about Freshair from Yelp’s business review, click here.

Lufa Farms: Merging the Farm and the City

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When Mohamed Hage first expressed his enthusiasm about his work—building greenhouses and feeding people in the heart of Montreal—to his aunt living in Lebanon, she was confused. “We’ve been doing this all of our lives,” she told him. After all, Hage had grown up in a self-sustaining village in Lebanon. Montreal, however, was quite different.

In a 2012 Ted Talks speech, Hage (the founding president of Lufa Farms) remarked, “We’re not eating what I used to eat back when I grew up in Lebanon. What we eat today—because we live in cities—comes from very far away.” He added: “Our food has traveled an average of 1,500 miles to make it to our plate, and food travels as good as a three-year-old child on a plane . . . by the time it makes it to the consumer, it’s lost its nutrients; it’s lost its taste, texture, and smells.” Industrial farming’s top priority is that a crop is tough, transportable, and has a large yield. When these are the primary factors for crop selection, Hage says, one crucial quality is liable to be overlooked: taste.

In 2007, an idea for creating a new type of farm was germinating in Hage’s brain. “I said to myself, ‘What if you could change the way we grow food? What if you can grow food in a more responsible way, and what if you can create a direct link to the consumer?’” With the help of a group of engineers and architects, he followed through on his idea with tremendous success.

Before building the rooftop greenhouse in September of 2010, Hage and his team needed to define ‘responsible agriculture’ so that they agreed upon exactly what they hoped to achieve. They identified four components essential to their definition of ‘responsible agriculture’: Using new land; using water in a more responsible way; using no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides; and growing good food. By the time the construction process of Lufa Farms had concluded in February of 2011, Hage and his team had accomplished all of these goals.

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By constructing their greenhouse on a building’s rooftop, Hage and his team utilized a space that is typically ignored. Moreover, rooftops are optimal locations for greenhouses, given that the sun’s energy and the heat energy from the building below reduce energy-expenditure costs. Lufa Farms’ specific location on the rooftop of a city building turned out to be beneficial as well because plants can feed off of the higher carbon dioxide levels typical of cities. Hage and his team accomplished their goal of using water in a more responsible way by developing their own, closed-loop water circulation systems. Lufa Farms bypassed the need for pesticides and potentially harmful chemicals by introducing good insects into the greenhouse, namely ladybugs, that attack plant-devouring insects such as aphids and white flies. Lastly, they accomplished their goal of growing good food by selecting crop varieties for their taste, nutrition, smell, and texture—not for their toughness or transportability.

In his final remarks during his Ted Talks speech, Hage stated: “Today . . . we feed 2,000 people with vegetables that are harvested the same day that have never seen the inside of a fridge: vegetables harvested in the heart of the city, on a rooftop, using half the energy to heat the building and a fraction of the water and nutrients [normally used in commercial agriculture]. Because of the direct link with our consumers, we distribute our food to drop points.” He asked the audience to imagine communities connected by farms, and he himself has made that spectacular accomplishment through his founding of Lufa Farms—through the merging of the farm and the city.

To visit the Lufa Farms website, click here.

To read The Montreal Gazette’s article on Lufa Farms, click here.

To listen to Mohamed Hage’s Ted Talks speech, click here.

Innovative Canadian Dry-Cleaning Business Goes Green

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Three months into the establishment of Nettoyeur Ecologique Royal, a dry cleaning business in Montreal, owner Michael Kutchuk became concerned. His wife’s lifelong skin condition was worsening: her eyes were swollen and itchy, and her hands were raw. What was the source of her deteriorating condition? The harsh chemicals commonly used to clean clothes (including perchloroethylene, or PERC, a chemical that has been related to a number of health and environmental problems). Kutchuk and his wife decided to revamp their business and go green, eliminating PERC and other environmentally harmful chemicals from the clothes-cleaning process. Instead, Kutchuk now uses steam and a minimal amount of water to wash everything. Kutchuk explains that this environmentally friendly change is beneficial to customers, improving “the health of families and their pets by eliminating the chemicals that people breathe, touch and ingest” (thegreenpages.ca, “Nettoyeur Ecologique Royal makes the grade for eco-friendly dry cleaning”).

The Kutchuks’ eco-friendly adjustments to their business led Nettoyeur Ecologique Royal to receive a “Green Business Certification” from The Institute for Green Business Certification (IGBC) in June of 2012.

To read Michael Kutchuk’s story and visit Nettoyeur Ecologique Royal’s website click here.

To read The Montreal Gazette’s article about Nettoyeur Ecologique Royal, click here.