Category Archives: recycling

Another Half-baked CNIB Idea

It is no secret that I have a tenuous relationship with the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind).  I’ll grant that they have good O & M instructors (Orientation and Mobility), but my praise stops there. I am grateful that they taught me good caning skills. That’s what they do best, are supposed to do and should continue to do.  My beef with CNIB? They make nutty decisions with little or no consultation with their clients. I’ll get to the latest half-baked scheme they dreamed up in a moment. What really puts a burr under my saddle is their passive acceptance of praise (and money) from people who have no idea what they do (or not do).  More than once, someone has asked me, “What’s your CNIB dog’s name?”  I could spit. Instead I grit my teeth and explain that CNIB HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH PUTTING GUIDE DOGS INTO BLIND PEOPLE’s HANDS! In fact,   The CNIB in Toronto was known to have banned Guide dogs from their building for a while in the early years, relegating them to the yard while their handlers were inside.  The organization has a public image that is vastly based on misconception. They do not give “all that free stuff that helps the blind” as people erroneously believe.  Nor do they find employment for people (except some pathetic contracts with casinos that has blind people doing coat check with drunks or similar and infrequent opportunities). Nor do they provide any social programs which some isolated blind folks could really use. Nor do they actually employ many blind people within their organization (except for a few token staff here and there). Nor do they provide a list of services or resources when one is referred…it’s hit or miss what or when you ever find out what they do and who does it, or what other organizations might offer. Nor do they do advocacy work on any significant scale, though they are quick to accept kudos for other people’s work.   I will explain their latest idiotic idea.  The CNIB library in Toronto has historically mailed Braille and Talking books to the blind all over Canada.  Several years ago, the four-track cassettes were finally retired and new technology emerged with the creation of DAISY books. Digital Audio Information Systems books are Cd’s that hold an entire recorded book on a single disc. The Canadian government gave the CNIB library $6,000,000 to convert to the new system. I have no idea what terms came with the money, or how it was used in paying for new discs, mailing cases for them, and new devices to play them on.  They are played on DAISY players. These machines cost $500.00 Canadian. The CNIB got in bed with a Quebec company called Humanware, and a bunch were given free of cost to many blind people across the country. The rush to do this was fueled by unknown factors. Accountability and transparency are not part of the CNIB philosophy.  Now, several years later, these devices are breaking down and no one, except Humanware can repair them. They do so for an obscene price and great inconvenience (shipping to Quebec) to the owners. Remember, most blind people live are unemployed or underemployed and live in poverty.  That’s just a drop in the bucket, as far as I am concerned. Now, the CNIB library very craftily sent out a notice that the audio books on DAISY disc were going to arrive in a new mailing case. Here’s why, I have learned through patient investigation. The discs, are mailed in a cardboard mailer. The name and address of the client is imprinted on the disc. The client listens to the book on CD and then returns it to the CNIB in Toronto, where it is DESTROYED and “recycled”.  The reason given for returning them is one of copyright (even though you can copy the book while you have it). They claimed that there were ‘mistakes’ in the return of CD’s and this is why they have changed the system.  Every client gets a fresh book every time.  I began thinking about the number of books that would be destroyed and ‘recycled’. I tried to find out about the recovery of material in the recycling of CD’s and the amount of material (significant) that would end up in the landfill.  E-mails and phone calls to the library tested my patience. It was not until I threatened ‘Freedom of information’ action, that I was finally told that last year, the CNIB library loaned “over 1,000,000 DAISY books on CD.” They tried to cushion the significance of this by saying that downloads are becoming more popular.  Their own web site identifies that fewer than 17% of blind Canadians are connected to the Internet. Sigh. I have contacted the Ministry of the Environment in Ontario and in Nova Scotia to get some input. They are stunned and are checking into it. No one seems to know much about  the environmental impact of recycling CD’s…there is a significant part that goes into the landfill.  I will be withdrawing my CNIB library membership and following the consequences of this CNIB half-baked idea, done without consultation, as usual. I think they should stop calling themselves a library, if they are not circulating the majority of their collection. 


Pirate Party Paper Palluza

My nephew has spent the last two months planning a surprise party for his mom.  The theme? Pirates. Realize, that the boy tends to run with something, like a dog with a meaty bone.  We’ve had pirate party planning meetings, pirate party related e-mails,  phone calls galore and even a ‘kit’ (at $2.oo) which included a binder filled with paper: agenda, tasks, outline, pirate history, suggested food items to bring, costume requirements, evaluation… Did I mention that the boy’s mom’s work involves statistics?  ‘sponge bob’ was the code name for this party.  Frankly, by the time I  put on my castaway outfit, I was feeling a little sponge bob’ed out.  The fact that my costume was taken straight from my closet, did not cheer me up either. My tattered looking white cotton pants and ragged t-shirt were very Gilligan. It is winter in Nova Scotia, so the thin pants necessitated long johns. The sandals and floppy sunhat were carried in a bag, and proper arctic boots and wool hat were worn for travel to party central.  When I arrived, I was greeted by loud theme music (soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean movie) and a power point presentation on the computer.  The walls were decorated with creative pirate art which was described to me in detail. I steeled myself and slunk into the kitchen with my requisite food contributions.  At long last, mom arrived home and Pirate Mother Appreciation Party 2008 was underway.  Food is the meat and potatoes of any party. Actually, for me, it’s just the potatoes…I’m a vegetarian. Worse,  I’m one of those environmentally conscious vegetarians. So, when the expensive, glossy pirate paper plates, paper cups, and matching pirate napkins were offered, I passed, saying, “I’m not using disposable paper products anymore…” . My sister’s ex is a smart cookie, and a nice person. However, ‘D’ s response to my paper policy was not very clever. “It’s recyclable. It’ll get all turned into compost eventually”, ‘D’ announces in a dead serious manner.  This was not really the time for a lecture on environmental responsibility. After all, we were in the clutches of  my nephew’s pirate party mania. We had a schedule to keep. Outdoors for Pirate pinata at 7:00 pm, followed by sparklers at 7:15… The moment was not seized.  I’ve had some time to stew, so I offer these thoughts: The THREE R’s (reduce, reuse and recycle) are the trinity of eco-passion. It does not mean, that the option to recycle should  give anyone carte blanche to go through the stuff in wasteful excess. Let’s look at the Pirate paper plates etc. The trees felled to create this stuff died in vain.  Until their demise, they were contributing to the air quality of the world. The machinery used to log them as well as the trucks hauling them to the paper mill,  burned fossil fuel which contributed to green house gases. The paper mill also sucked up energy (likely generated by coal fired electrical plants) and belched out more noxious substances into the atmosphere and into the water system.  The raw paper product was probably shipped overseas to China or Indonesia on a slow boat that was burning ‘bunker’ oil, the dirtiest form of fuel.  At the Asian factory, the base paper was turned into napkins and cups with colour designs stamped on them.  The environmental policies and restrictions of Asian factories are negligible. I bet that the factory where ‘sponge bob’ pirate paper stuff was made, is guilty of contributing mega tons of toxic fumes and waste into the environment.  I’m not enthusiastic about the exploitation of vulnerable people who work for meager wages in these factories either.  Now, the packaged plates, and napkins etc. must be shipped back to North America…more  dirty bunker used by the ships.   I’ll skip ahead to the recycling aspect.  Once the party snacks are devoured, the used pirate paper plates and other ‘recyclables’ are neatly placed in the appropriate ‘blue’ bag and left at the curb. A fossil fuel-burning truck picks up the bag and hauls it to the recycling plant. The plant requires energy to operate its machinery and power its lights. It’s very expensive to turn paper back into something usable, if indeed these glossy, food stained things are ‘passed’ and begin the process. Often, paper and other ‘recyclables’ are sent to the landfill instead.  Had I been thinking on my feet (the ones with the Gilligan sandals on them), I would have launched my logical and sound appeal to nix the paper. However, we had a Pirate Party schedule to keep and I did not want to my nephew to feel that I was ‘stealing his thunder’.  “Bring on the sparklers!”, I said instead.