Category Archives: People Power

Rendezvou with Permaculture Carins

Just the cutest little thing all wrapped up in a banana tree!

Just the cutest little thing all wrapped up in a banana tree!

After finishing up with the Permaculture Design Certificate I decided to try my luck at actually getting my hands dirty! I found a few permaculture groups in towns on my route up North, and contacted them to see if they had any work parties or cool events coming up. Permaculture Cairns was the only group that got back to me, but I was able to arrange to help out with a community garden renovation project they had planned.

Essentially the garden had been running well for a while, and then the main organizer moved on to greener pastures (and a cooler climate?) and the whole thing ground to a dead stop. It’s really too bad because the garden has a great location on an elementary school grounds. Permaculture Carins was alerted that the garden needed some TLC, so they organized a day to re-vamp and renovate, and hoped to get the surrounding community involved so there would be renewed local energy brought to the project. SO we all got together and worked our buts off in the hot sun, and got the garden back into tip top shape!

I worked on the Banana circle for most of the day. It's hard to see here, but there is a big pit in the middle of the circle that is filled with organics and multch... then more multch around the trees... and another layer of multch for good luck!

I worked on the Banana circle for most of the day. It's hard to see here, but there is a big pit in the middle of the circle that is filled with organics and mulch... then more mulch around the trees... and another layer of mulch for good luck!

Making multch!

Making mulch!

Compost workshop underway. The big chicken wire bales are for measuring out the correct amounts of brown multch, green multch, and manure.

Compost workshop underway. The big chicken wire bales are for measuring out the correct amounts of brown mulch, green mulch, and manure.

Planting into the multch layers - keeps all those pesky weeds away

Planting into the mulch layers - keeps all those pesky weeds away


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STV for BC – Let the Debate Begin

It’s almost time to vote again! YAY! Even more exciting, it’s two votes in one! We’ve got an referendum question on the ballot this year – the single transferable vote (STV). It was also on the ballot in 2004, but we’re giving it another shot after a narrow loss.

This Wednesday night seems to be THE night for electoral shin digs in Van. Starting with the launch of BC Vote, a new non partisan source of news for the upcoming election. Then moving on to the STV Debate – will be a great debate between Antony Hodgson and Bill Tielelman.

I’ll be hitting both events with Get Your Vote On stickers and voter registration forms on hand. Transit between events is super easy.

BC Vote Launch Party

Date: Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
Time: 5:30 pm
Place: Redwerks Rooftop, 321 Railway Street in Gastown

“The goal of BC Vote ( is to provide timely information about the current state of political affairs in the province of British Columbia. Admittedly, news outlets and information sources often tend to have a bias towards a specific political party. With BC Vote, we attempt to provide a pluralistic, non-partisan, and non-biased (as much as possible) panoramic view of the political landscape of the province of British Columbia as we near the 39th Provincial General Eelection (May 12th. 2009).”

Register for the event here!

STV Debate


Want to know more about STV? Join me at the STV Debate on Wednesday night, sponsored by COPE.

“Is STV right for BC? A debate on STV and electoral reform in our province – THIS WEDNESDAY!

When: Wednesday, April 1st at 7pm

Where: Creative Individual Studio — #110 60 East 5th Ave

Cash bar and DJ after debate FREE — sponsored by COPE

With Bill Tielelman from the “No” committee and Antony Hodgson from the “Yes” Committee

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Lost Generation

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PodMob for Sustainable Sushi all Rolled-Up

We can change business as usual.

We buy things everyday.  Businesses will do anything for money. Businesses will do anything for our money… so why don’t we use that power?  To use our purchasing power requires organization, and until the Carrotmob came around, groups hadn’t seen ‘our money’ organized on a grassroots level successfully. We took the concept to Vancouver, and we’ve called it the PodMob*.

Chalk drawings on Robson Street

Chalk drawings on Robson Street

*Pod – group of Vancouverites. Mob – the act of organizing our purchasing at one place and time.

The concept: A big group gets together and agrees to buy things at one place and time.  Now, we have pooled our money into a large sum we can use to negotiate with. Negotiate what?

How about sustainable sushi?

Vancouver is full of sushi – the West End alone has over 20 sushi spots. I can’t convince a sushi restaurant to drop farmed salmon from their menu or start composting scraps by threatening not to purchase a $10 sushi combo.  But a group of 100, 200, or 300 people that stop in for sushi on a particular day does have enough combined money to persuade a sushi restaurant to step up to our challenge to green their restaurant.


The challenge:

  1. Green your operations (i.e. energy efficiency, water conservation, waste management, and purchasing/supply chain).
  2. Label your menu so we know what items are sustainable (based on the Seafood Watch Sustainable Sushi Guide).
  3. Offer at least one “Best Choice” item from the Seafood Watch Sustainable Sushi Guide.

What does ‘greening your operations’ really mean? The Green Table Network heard about the PodMob and stepped in to offer a one-year membership to the business we PodMobbed. They are experts in greening the hospitality industry, and their membership provides tools, guides, and a great network.

The Seafood Watch Sustainable Sushi Guide bases it’s ranking of ‘sustainable fish’ on the state of natural stocks, fish farming practices, harvesting methods, and health concerns (i.e. PCBs and mercury).

The Flores Brothers from Sushi Bento Express

The Flores Brothers from Sushi Bento Express

The bidding:
It all started on a rainy November day. I walked into almost every sushi restaurant in the West End, and told them I would bring them a mob of paying customers if they committed the highest percentage of one day’s revenue to ‘greening’ their restaurant.  Considering the state of the fish stocks across the globe, we also asked the restaurant if they would spruce up their menu with some sustainable sushi options.

Shad DJs ROCK!

Shad DJ's ROCK!hi options.

A handful of restaurants stepped up to the challenge and wanted to dig their teeth in and learn more.

The top bid came from Sushi Bento Express at 31% of revenue from November 20th.

The PodMob

I met a girl while I was canvasing the sushi restaurants that thought her boyfriend, Simon, would totally be into lending a hand. So I met up with Simon, who works at Change, about a week before the PodMob. He also introduced me to Lorien, from Limelight Events. Between the two of them we handled a whole bunch of last minute things that I hadn’t had time to think about and designed some awesome posters! We pulled together a great night that harnessed West Enders’ purchasing power to create change in a local business.The PodMob was a success!

Lisa Johnson from CBC covered the story on the 6 o’clock news, and the CBC wrote an article on sustainable sushi. I also got

the chance to speak with Mike McDermid from the Ocean Wise program on BC Almanac with Mark Forsythe. Jackie Wong wrote an article in the  WestEnder that featured our story on November 20th. Sushi Bento Express put together a sustainable sushi combo menu just for the day. Shah DJs pumped out awesome tunes. Boyd, our sponsor from, asked trivia questions and gave out bamboo t-shirts.  Tiny Bites popped in to review the sustainable sushi scene. An intrepid trio from Bowen Island even made the trip across the drink to munch on guilt-free sushi. Of course, there was also a mob of West Enders that kept the Flores brothers busy all night. We’ve got pictures to prove it!

What impact did we have?? Drum roll please…..

85% increase in revenue!

Over 100 Podmobbers on the scene.

Sushi Bento Express upped their contribution to ‘going green’ to 33% – they rock!

The Flores brothers were amazed by how many people showed up for the PodMob, and they’ve decided to keep the sustainable sushi combos on the menu full time. They’ve also committed to labeling their menu with green, yellow, and red dots so you can make informed choices, and exploring Ocean Wise Certification.

Where did the PodMobbers come from? Some saw our youtube videos, got an email, saw a poster, facebook, or heard about it from a friend.

Eat sushi. Save the ocean.

Line up out the door

Line up out the door

With an introductory meeting with the Green Table Network under their belt, the next step is an audit. A Green Table representative will spend half a day at the restaurant observing how things run, and then they will be able to compile a list of suggestions. This is where energy efficiency, water conservation, and waste management will improve.

Eat sushi. Save the climate.

We’re going to keep tabs on the changes that happen at Sushi Bento Express, and report back what the impact. How many kilowatt-hours, liters of water, and kilograms of waste are diverted? Stay tuned!

Eat sushi. Save the planet.

Congratulations to everyone that came out and participated in the PodMob! You rock!

3rdwhale Bamboo T-shirt Winner

A 3rdwhale Bamboo T-shirt Winner

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Ocean Wise Fish

A Vancouver Aquarium Conservation Program

Ocean Wise Symbol for Sustainable Menu Items

Ocean Wise Symbol for Sustainable Menu Items

Navigating Sustainable Seafood

Ocean Wise. Seafood Watch. Sea Choice. It’s a confusing world of consumer guides and restaurant programs out there! Here are the basic differences:

Ocean Wise – initiative out of the Vancouver Aquarium that promotes adoption of sustainable seafood in restaurants.

Seafood Watch – consumer guide out of the Monterey Bay Aquarium (American).

Sea Choice – Canadian consumer guide.

How does Ocean Wise define sustainable seafood?

“Sustainable seafood is, very simply, seafood caught in a way that ensures the health of the ocean for years to come. Ocean Wise choices are species that are:

  • abundant and resilient to fishing pressures
  • managed as part of a comprehensive plan based on current research
  • harvested in ways that limit accidentals bycatch of other, possibly endangered species
  • harvested in ways that limit damage to ocean habitats.

From the Ocean Wise Brochure

What is the Ocean Wise Program?

Ocean Wise is a free voluntary program for restaurants that want to serve sustainable seafood. The whole menu doesn’t have to make the switch, but at least one unsustainable item has to be removed or replaced (every six months), and sustainable options highlighted so customers can clearly identify ocean-friendly choices.

The Vancouver Aquarium lists participating restaurants in their Ocean Wise directory, provides training sessions for staff, media resources, and access to an extensive network of chefs committed to sustainable seafood.

Participating restaurants:

  • complete an assessment of their menu
  • remove at least one unsustainable option
  • use the Ocean Wise logo on sustainable menu options
  • commit to removing an additional unsustainable item every six months
  • participate in information sessions for front line and kitchen staff
  • commit to keeping staff informed of Ocean Wise info

Check out the Ocean Wise Restaurant Directory here.

Sushi Bento Express is going to offer sustainable sushi options, and they’ve agreed to labeling their menu – they’re only a few steps away from being Ocean Wise! I’m going to bring the information that I have on Ocean Wise to the folks at Sushi Bento Express – maybe they’ll take those last steps and be the first small sushi spot in Vancouver to be Ocean Wise.

Originally posted at

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The Green Table Network

Vancouver based organization that helps restaurants “go green”


I’m really excited that the Green Table Network (GTN) has donated a one-year membership to Sushi Bento Express for winning the PodMob. The membership will provide the folks at Sushi Bento Express with tools and guidelines for greening their restaurant that are based on local and international standards, and tailored specifically for restaurants.The GTN provides guidance on solid waste management, water conservation, energy conservation, pollution prevention, and purchasing. They’ll also get access to advice and support from GTN Green Experts, a network of wicked local suppliers that have greened their own operations and products.

From what I understand, the membership that Sushi Bento Express is receiving will not qualify them as “green,” and they’ll have to meet specific criteria to be publicly listed as a GTN Approved Member. They’ll be able to use the assessment tools that GTN provides or hire an auditor to determine what changes need to be made and create an action plan.

The minimum requirements met by GTN Approved Members are:

1. Eliminated Styrofoam and non recyclable plastics

2. implemented container and paper recycling programs

3. Installed low-flow spray nozzles on all dish/cleaning sinks

4. Posted “turn it off” light and faucet reminders

5. Retro-fit current incandescent lighting to energy efficient technologies

6. Purchased 30-100% pcf paper products (choose at lease 2: bathroom tissue paper, towels, napkins, office paper, menus, business cards)

7. Have created a Sustainable Purchasing Policy

8. Chosen 1 protein with an organic/sustainable/ethical source

If Sushi Bento Express meets all these criteria, they’ll be listed publicly as a GTN Approved Member, and then audited annually to ensure that they’re keeping up with their green initiatives.

The combined waste, water, and energy savings of all 65 operators signed on with the GTN is impressive!

  • 285 tonnes of solid waste diverted
  • 76.5 million litres of water reduced
  • 159,310 kW electricity reduced
  • 12770 GJ natural gas reduced
  • $110,173 operating cost savings

With everyone’s support this Thursday, I think we’ll give Sushi Bento Express plenty of incentive to go for GTN Aproved Member status!

– PodMob – Thursday Nov 20, 2008 –

-Party & Prizes between 6pm – 9pm –

– 1258 Robson Street (between Jervis & Bute) –

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Podmob on CBC Radio – BC Almanac

Click here for the link to my recent interview on CBC’s BC Almanac.

Mike, from the Ocean Wise program at the Vancouver Aquarium, was interviewed after me and he even took questions about “sustainable sushi.” The full show can be found here.

Photo from
Blue Fin Tuna – Photo from

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