CHBA-Victoria’s Home & Garden Show-My Take

CHBA-Victoria’s Home & Garden Show-My Take

Although I’ve attended several home and garden shows over the years, including the show last year at the Bear Mountain Arena that featured a seminar from one of my absolute favorite color consultants, Jane Lockhart; the CHBA-Victoria show was among one of the largest home and garden shows I have ever seen.

Unfortunately, I arrived in between presentations and wasn’t able to take in seminars by either Inez Hanl of The Sky is The Limit Design and Jenny Martin of Jenny Martin Design; but there were booths and exhibits that I thought were creative, fun, well-thought out and ones I will look out for at future shows.

Here are some of the highlights:


What struck me about this company was the way they displayed their information on their products to help home and business owners reduce water use and achieve water conservation. Until I stumbled upon their exhibit, I had never heard of an Ipod app that could be used for water conservation at home and at the office. I thought the product was ingenious and I am looking forward to seeing more from this company.

Michelle Matte Interiors

Michelle Matte was one of the few interior designers at the show that had a creative and elegant display. She had a beautiful black chaise lounger along with a white carpet and a lamp, next to a TV that showed a slideshow of some of her recent projects. It was comfortable and yet luxurious and among the best of the displays I’d seen.  I found her display and her work to be elegant, warm and certainly would consider working with her on my home, when I become a homeowner.

Western Living Magazine’s Showroom

The showroom put together by Western Living Magazine stuck out in my mind because of some of the more eclectic and eccentric décor elements. A table carved in the shape of a black boar with a glass tabletop, chairs with cow hide backrests, eclectic lights and pink walls certainly stood out in my mind as risqué and different in terms of interior design. I did however, appreciate the deep soaker tubs and modern vanities that they also had on display. But I have to say that in spite of the unique display, I have no intentions of painting my bathroom walls pink, however ‘in’ that might be for this year.

Twelve₃- Sustainable Micro Housing

Twelve₃ is a company with a concept similar to that of Lanefab Homes in Vancouver ; they produce custom made pre-fabricated extensions for current homes to use as rental or storage spaces, secondary suites and even as affordable housing. I was fascinated to learn that their homes are available in 12 x 12 and 12 x 16 sizes and they use the latest in energy saving and efficiency and solar power technology. They even have the capabilities of having your new home or extension to be off the grid. I’ll definitely be following this company via Twitter to see what new projects come their way.

Home Design & Renovation Tour 2011

This display was on behalf of the annual fundraiser for Young Life, a Christian ministry dedicated to helping teens. Having never seen a home renovation tour being utilized as a fundraiser, I’m interested to see what the 13 homes on the tour have to offer and what expertise the designers on site will be able to share. This event is one I am definitely interested in attending.

Environmental Communication & Sustainability: Ineffective?

Although the concept of sustainability and environmentalism has existed for decades, I became more involved with learning about sustainability through interacting with activists, consultants and businesses alike in the sustainable sector two years ago. Enrolling in a special topics course on Environmental Communications & Climate Change opened my eyes to the issues facing climate change and environment and more specifically, the challenges of communicating with the general public about the environment.

Environmental communication interests me because of two central issues: does terminology play a part in the effectiveness of environmental communication and what medium is most effective at influencing people on issues on the environment? A former classmate of mine mentioned during a recent conversation that he wanted to de-emphasize the fact that his janitorial company used ‘green’ cleaning products because he believed that the word ‘green’ is overused and therefore passé.

Is being sustainable really passé or is it just the language? How could educating the public about the environment and creating awareness around an alternative lifestyle-a sustainable one-be outdated? I believe that when it comes to sustainability and the environment, it comes down to the language and the terminology we use to talk about the subject.  If ‘green’ is considered passé and ‘eco’ is considered to be overused and perhaps outdated, perhaps what we need to do is to start referring to ‘green’ products, issues and concepts as ‘environmentally sustainable’. Certainly, it’s not as catchy, but it has the benefit of being true and it describes the heart of environmental communication in two words that you could never do with ‘eco’ or ‘green’.

Terminology and language aside, the other issue with environmental communication that fascinates me is the question of how you discover which medium is more effective at raising awareness on environmental and sustainability issues and how to influence audiences’ behaviors accordingly. Activist Tzeporah Berman once told me in a phone interview from her home on Cortes Island that it doesn’t matter if twenty, thirty years from now, everyone on earth is driving an electric car,  because it would do very little to reduce our carbon footprint. Why is that? Mainly because while a new behavior is introduced, we have yet to let go of all the other habits that lead to environmental harm.

On a local level, I sat down with Andy Orr, who is responsible for corporate communications for the CRD for the Greater Victoria region late last year. We both agreed that much of the behavior of the general public had yet to change in relation to sustainability because suitable and-permanent-alternatives were not available. Take the example of using reusable cloth bags. Certainly, I can use cloth bags for any of my shopping and storage needs, but what about garbage? As I pointed out to Mr. Orr, no one is about to spend money on cloth bags only to throw them out with the garbage. If the general public does not use plastic bags for their garbage, what suitable, biodegradable environmental alternative is available, that is also strong enough to handle heavy and really soiled items? We both agreed that while introducing reusable bags to the general public was a good idea, however, it only introduced a new behavior; it didn’t eliminate other behaviors, because permanent alternatives had yet to be introduced. On the issue of environmental communication, he expressed concern that transitioning over to social media to spread the message of composting would not only alienate the CRD’s existing audience but reduce creditability of the organization.

And would it? Certainly, there seem to be two camps within the sustainable sector that are involved with social media: the activists and the eco-consumerists. I’ve personally seen Twitter and Facebook accounts from activists such as Tzeporah on her initiatives such as Power UP Canada, active blogs such as the DeSmog Blog from Kevin Grandia, among others as well as larger environmental activist organizations like Greenpeace. And on the other end of the spectrum, you have businesses who have built their companies on selling eco-friendly, sustainable products from household items to gifts for pets such as local business The Good Planet Company.  For businesses and individuals such as these, utilizing social media to raise awareness and attract customers and activists does work. Why? Because their audiences utilize social media on a daily, sometimes even hourly basis.

But where does a government organization fit in with the medium of social media? Individual political campaigns nonwithstanding, how does a government organization devote time and resources to utilize social media to raise awareness of their initiatives with a NEW target audience and not neglect nor alienate their current audience? In our conversation, I didn’t have a ready answer for Mr. Orr. But after giving it some thought, I believe that it comes down to two things: individual target markets and the skills of the people who belong to that organization. If the organization contains individuals who are comfortable and knowledge about social media, give them the opportunity to reach out to new target markets on the issue of composting and devote the rest of your resources to the existing audiences.

And the New Color of the 21st Century Is………..Green

Anyone who has heard the news in passing over the last four to five years will have heard the word ‘green’ pass the lips of every news anchor and broadcaster in the world. ‘Sustainability’, ‘climate change’, ‘organic’ and ‘fair trade’ are words directly linked to the green phenomenon of the 21st century.

Certainly there have been questions that have been raised as to why the popularity of an issue such as global warming has taken an international focus, but more and more of it is directly related to media coverage. Images of receding glaciers and polar bears becoming endangered have aroused the worries of environmentalists and celebrities alike. Documentaries produced by former Vice President Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, entitled An Inconvenient Truth and The 11th Hour, respectively, helped to bring the seriousness of climate change to the forefront.

Changes to the economy have helped Western society realize the need for conservation, with soaring oil and grain prices, and the increasing lack of natural resources such as fresh water. Measures taken by the Canadian government include, but are by no means limited to,  a carbon tax and participation in the Kyoto Accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Other alternatives receiving more publicity are the creation of bio-diesel fuel, using corn, vegetable and peanut oil, as well as “carbon scrubbing”, the action of capturing carbon emissions from factories and using them as fertilizer for farming after cleaning.

However, there are problems with the ‘green’ initiatives still to be addressed. Bio-diesel, while environmentally friendly, is not feasible for any vehicle other than trucks at least ten to fifteen years old. Carbon “scrubbing” although gaining popularity, has yet to be accepted by the Canadian or American governments. The creation of the electric Smart Car saved money on fuel consumption, yet still faces controversy on how often the battery must be recharged. However, the implementation of hybrid vehicles seems to have quieted the controversy, at least on the subject of vehicle emissions and climate change.

Even the fashion and food industries are capitalizing on the ‘green’ craze. Clothes are being sewn using organic fibers such as cotton, and marketed as being homemade. In the food industry, organic and fair trade items are making their way from specialty food stores such as Capers or Choices onto Safeway and other supermarket shelves, though for a higher price. Health concerns linked with eating genetically modified foods has the general public turning more and more to organic ingredients, believing them to be beneficial health-wise and free of pesticides. Organic food has also been embraced and promoted by vegetarians and vegans alike, although with alternative grains such as kashi and spelt flour to promote healthier living.

Organic and fair trade food is targeting people of younger demographics, starting with vending machines in elementary schools stocking healthier alternatives such as dried fruit chips. The restaurant scene has also expanded both on the main campus of my school as well as in the general public. Restaurants such as Nature’s Garden on campus serve fair trade coffee and organic, fresh food, with prices for coffee much lower than your average Starbucks, while The Naam on the West side serves up vegetarian and vegan meals to lineups on a daily and nightly basis.

Controversy has also hit the subject of organic and fair trade food, due to the advertising. Stricter rules have been implemented by the Food Inspection Agency to impose limits on the amount of organic ingredients or elements a food must have. Along with the questions raised about organic food, there is also the question of the re-useable cloth bags, now being implemented by specialty supermarkets such as Capers, and other supermarkets such as Superstore. Although implemented to reduce the use of plastic bags, which take hundreds of years to properly disintegrate in landfills, the question of how food would be frozen and protected from freezer burn should plastic bags be eradicated has yet to be answered.

More than restaurants and supermarkets, there has also been events and companies created specifically for the promotion of a sustainable lifestyle. Just a few weeks ago, the Epic Sustainability Expo was held in my city, promoting clothing, transportation, food and everyday household items used in an eco-friendly lifestyle. Leading this current worldwide promotion is the use of household cleaners with eco-friendly ingredients to preserve the environment. Fresh Squeeze, an organization with both Chicago and Seattle chapters uses its website and blog to promote the news of green initiatives in both cities before reaching mainstream media.

Although the phenomenon began over fear of losing natural resources and our sources for transportation, industry and the economy, it has evolved into being much more. Companies such as Nike, previously branded for unethical practices in sweatshops have been given the opportunity to redeem themselves through sustainability. Mountain Equipment Co-op, previously known for all matters of outdoor and camping gear has grown in popularity thanks to Western society’s ‘green’ lifestyle. In truth, if ever there was a need to group decades together by color, the color of the new millennium would be green.