All posts by Keelin Mayer

How to Make Your Holiday Season Green

Lane Simond:

The holiday season can be a lot of fun, but it can also be damaging to the environment. The energy from lights and cooking, the waste from food and paper products, as well as the purchasing of gifts that people don’t need or want, all lead to an unsustainable celebration.

Here are some tips on how to make your holiday season greener:

Make your own wrapping paper – a lot of the wrapping paper we buy in stores in not recyclable due to its shiny coatings, foils and colours so it ends up in a landfill. However, you can avoid this nasty waste by wrapping gifts in old maps, children’s artwork, or a scarf or other cloth item. Some people even use the comics section of a newspaper.

Use LED lights – using LED lights is a good option as they require 80% less energy and last about 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. As a bonus they’re easier to work with because they are cool to the touch. Remember to only have your holiday lights on when you are in the room to enjoy them. This includes the office too. In other words, make a rule that the last person to leave work turns off any holiday lights in the office.

Send e-cards – It is a long-standing tradition to give holiday cards to family and friends. It is also fun to receive them. Instead of sending cards via regular mail delivery, be kind to the environment by sending an e-card instead.

Give green gifts – whether you are having a secret Santa at work or have to buy gifts for family, a green gift is good for the environment and shows the recipient that you have been thoughtful. Examples of green gifts include, reusable coffee mugs or containers, gift certificates, energy saving items for the home, handmade ornaments, handmade baked goods, pottery or ceramics, as well as paintings and photographs. You can also consider shopping at a second-hand store.

Recycle – no matter what supplies you rely on during the holiday season, remember to recycle. You can recycle old decorations, recycle old electronics if you get new devices as gifts, and you can even recycle your Christmas tree. Many towns and cities have programs that allow for your tree to be transformed into mulch or wood chips.

Reduce food waste – the holidays are dominated by festive food but so much of it goes to waste. Consider creative recipes for leftovers, share with those who might not have a big social circle, freeze leftovers, and plan ahead. Good planning can help you avoid making more food than you need.

While these are just a few basic suggestions, there are many other ways you can protect the environment during the holiday season. You might even find that being greener will also save you time and money.

Addressing Climate Change Can Improve Financial Performance Study Shows

Teresa Madaleno:

There has always been a perception that if a company focuses on addressing climate change, it will be too expensive and hurt the bottom line; however new insights from an Ernst and Young (EY) study indicates that companies that do act on climate change can attain “above expected returns.”

In a survey of over 500 companies focused on sustainability, EY discovered that 93 percent made public climate commitments. While these companies can’t deliver all the emissions reductions that our world requires, more than two-thirds (69 per cent) say that they gain higher financial value than expected from their climate actions.

As it turns out, the companies taking the strongest actions report that the efforts boost customer value in terms of brand purchasing behavior and improve employee value, such as staff recruitment and retention, which led to improved financial value. 

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has called for the world to cut emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, as well as reach net-zero emissions by 2050. This is what needs to happen to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Unfortunately, not enough companies and individuals are taking strong action to achieve this. Deeper cuts and involvement from companies in all industry sectors is required. The EY report urges businesses to make curbing emissions a priority.

The good news is that while there are still companies that think doing good is too costly, more are making the connection between investing in climate reduction and long-term financial value. Those who struggle to attain their emissions reduction goals are turning to carbon credits to help reach company targets. Furthermore, they are realizing that investors are watching closely to see how they respond to the climate crisis. The EY study states that 74 percent of institutional investors are now more likely to divest when a company demonstrates poor environmental, social and governance performance.

To read more about the Ernst and Young study click here.

Sparta Group Applauds U of T for Being Second in World Sustainability Ranking

Lane Simond:

Sustainability rankings are becoming an important measurement as more investors and consumers demand environmental accountability. Sparta is thrilled with the news that Canada’s University of Toronto (U of T) has come in second place on the first ever Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Sustainability Rankings.

Rankings by QS are approved by International Ranking Expert Group (IREG) and is considered one of the most-widely read university rankings in the world. The university sustainability rankings are going to be one of several annual rankings by QS.

The first ever university sustainability rankings featured 700 universities using a process that measured an institution’s ability to tackle the world’s greatest environment, social and governance (ESG) challenges. A long list of sustainability aspects was weighed, including sustainable education, sustainable research, social impact, employability, equality, and quality of life.

“We have an advanced e-waste upcycling facility and corporate office in Toronto so hearing that a Toronto university ranked so high is fantastic. It’s the young minds at U of T that will one day be running environmental businesses like ours. The staff, administration, and students who contributed to this ranking deserve our applause,” said Sparta President, John O’Bireck.

To read more about the ranking and what U of T is doing to protect the environment click the link below:

U of T Sustainability

Turning Your Pile of E-Waste into Opportunity

Lane Simond:

Technology is so entrenched in both our personal, as well as professional lives. Everything from wearable monitors, and smart home devices to desktops, laptops, iPads, mobile phones, and TV’s that stream shows from the Internet dominate our everyday interactions. The problem is that all these electronics become waste in a short period of time.

Many companies plan obsolescence of their products. They update and create new software and discontinue support of older devices. In fact, today it is often cheaper to buy new than to repair what is old. Electronic devices contain all sorts of valuable materials, including gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium, cobalt, and lithium. These are all precious metals that are reclaimed at Sparta’s e-waste recycling facility, ERS International, thus giving them new life and reducing the need for new mining. Many studies support the recovering of metals. One study found that mining copper, gold, and aluminum from ore costs 13 times more than recovering metals though urban mining of e-waste.

While getting rid of your company’s e-waste can free up space for new devices, there is a bonus to sending that waste to ERS International – the Sparta division is a certified generator of carbon credits. This means if your company needs to reduce its carbon footprint, but is struggling to reach its goal, sending e-waste to ERS can help offset carbon and get you closer to your objective. A Sparta news release outlines the advanced carbon credit program.

There are many benefits to recycling electronics. For example, it helps conserve energy, reduces air and water pollution, reduces greenhouse gases and conserves natural resources. However, not many recyclers can generate and offer their customers carbon credit to offset their emissions. In a world where ESG is becoming mainstream, being able to offset emissions is crucial.

Whether your company already recycles e-waste or is thinking about it, take into consideration that Sparta’s ERS not only diverts your trash from landfill, but it also turns it into an opportunity for you to further reduce your carbon footprint and prove to the world that you are taking action to protect the environment.

Carbon Credits 101: Understanding How Carbon Credits Are Used to Reduce GHG Footprint

Teresa Madaleno:

In a modern world, dominated by advanced technology and automation, reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) is a monumental challenge. Many companies have put environmental policies in place to reduce their output of GHG; however, some have a much harder time reaching the goal they have set in terms of lowering their carbon footprint. This is where carbon credits can help.

Think of carbon credits, often referred to as “offsets”, as permits that allow the owner to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases to get the job done. For example, a factory that requires a significant amount of energy to operate. While these companies may want to do the right thing, they often struggle to balance planet with production. Therefore, many are now turning to the voluntary carbon credit market.

Carbon credits come from any project that reduces, avoids, destroys, or captures emissions. Sparta Group’s e-waste recycling division, ERS International, helps reduce and avoid emissions every single day by recycling, refurbishing, and reusing all the products it handles for customers. Recently, Sparta announced that its e-waste recycling division, ERS International, launched a carbon credit program for its electronic waste clients looking to offset their carbon footprint. ERS International’s carbon credit plan has been approved by the Canadian Standards Association or CSA.

Here’ how the ERS carbon credit program would apply:

Let’s say I own a company that manufactures toasters. If I send my overstock toasters or components to Sparta’s recycling division for processing, it means those toasters and parts will never make it to a landfill, instead they will be refurbished or reused thus avoiding emissions. Remember – to make a new toaster it takes energy that generates GHG. Since ERS is handling those toasters, they get a new life. They don’t need replacing with new toasters. One carbon credit is generated when one metric tonne of carbon dioxide is prevented from entering the atmosphere. You can see how quickly ERS can generate credits.

As a manufacturer, I produce a lot of GHG to make any new toasters, so in addition to sending my products to ERS for recycling, I might consider buying carbon credits to offset the emissions I am generating during the production process. It just depends on how close I am to my emissions reduction goal.

Several developments have led more organizations to consider carbon credits. For instance, some governments have introduced new mandatory emissions reductions. Also, consumer pressure is forcing companies to turn to voluntary markets for carbon offsets.

Several experts from investment firms and banks, have stated one of the most cost-effective ways to incentivize these carbon dioxide reductions are “to put a price on carbon.” The Canadian government has set a 2022 carbon emission price of $50 per tonne, an amount that will automatically increase to $65 per tonne in 2023 and likely $170 by 2030.

World problems almost always lead to new markets. The ongoing climate crisis and the growth in global greenhouse gas emissions have led to the creation of the carbon credit market.

Some of the better-known carbon offsetting projects are renewable energy projects, land use and reforestation, as well as carbon capture and sequestration. Now, Sparta’s e-waste division, ERS International is introducing another type of offsetting project – recycling/reuse of electronics. By turning to ERS, companies help the environment and signal to consumers and investors that they are not just paying lip service to the climate change fight, they are taking real action.

Ecosystem Marketplace Insights Report, an offset tracking, reporting, and knowledge sharing organization, reports that we have entered a “new era for growth in the voluntary carbon markets.” Last year (2021), the annual voluntary market value tracked was around US$1B. Today, it is closer to US$2B.

Note: There are two types of carbon credit markets: Mandatory (Compliance) or Voluntary. Mandatory programs are created by national or regional governments. Voluntary markets operate separate from mandatory and allow companies to buy and sell carbon offsets to try to reach their goals.

Four Real Reasons Companies Promise to Reduce Carbon Footprint

– Teresa Madaleno:

A business with a “social purpose” is a company that strives to create a better world. Many companies by virtue of what they do are socially aware. For instance, Sparta Group is an environmental technology company and each time customers use Sparta products and/or services, it protects the planet. However, all types of companies large, medium, and small are making it known that they have “social purpose”. They are striving to reduce their carbon footprint. The question is why? While it would be nice to believe all businesses want a smaller carbon footprint because they care about mankind, the reality is there are four other key reasons companies vow to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

To appeal to customers – According to the UK Net Zero guide, Carbon Trust, about 57 per cent of adults aged 18 to 25 would stop buying a product if its manufacturer didn’t commit to measuring and reducing its carbon footprint. Several studies in recent years confirm that Millennials care deeply about the environment. Marketing consultants, Simon-Kucher Partners report that globally, 85 per cent of people have shifted their purchase behavior towards being more sustainable in the last five years. Additionally, they indicate that one-third of Millennials will choose a sustainable alternative when available. The main objective of most companies is to earn a profit. Today, thousands of companies have admitted that they can’t ignore the environment if they want to profit and grow.

To be compliant – Depending on what country the business is operating in, there could be a requirement (under law) to report carbon emissions. In some places, such as the EU, businesses must report emissions alongside their financials. In Canada, greenhouse gas reporting works on a two-tier system. Businesses must file a federal GHG report and a provincial GHG emissions report. It is worth noting, regulations vary from province-to- province.

To boost company’s value – Today, investors are not only looking at financial performance, but they are also looking at companies’ environmental performance. Many investors now consider environmental data when they are assessing whether to invest in a certain company. ESG criteria is a set of standards for a company’s behavior used by socially conscious investors to assess potential investments. ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance. Investment firms are increasingly tracking companies that make ESG a priority. Some market experts also say that a business that keeps control of emissions benefit when it comes to the cost of their debt. In many cases, they pay lower interest rates.

To attract good employees – Research conducted at Washington University in St. Louis indicates that COVID corresponded with an increase in the pressure on companies to align with the values of its employees. The study stated, “Employees of organizations with higher purpose statements were happier and prouder of their organizations.” A study by WeSpire showed Gen-Z is even more demanding when it comes to “social purpose”. They will quit a job if they believe the company is ignoring environmental or social concerns.

As you can see, it is not always a matter of wanting to reduce carbon footprint, it is a matter of needing to reduce emissions to remain a healthy, viable company. In an upcoming blog we’ll talk about how companies are turning to carbon credits to address environmental concerns.

Copper Shortage Means More Business for Recyclers

Teresa Madaleno:

While Sparta Group’s research project looking into the recovery of lithium and other metals from spent Lithium- ion batteries is underway with collaborators at the University of Ottawa, we hear more discussion about the shortage of metals.

Business journalists and bloggers have been writing about a decrease in access to lithium, silver, palladium, and nickel; however, there is also a shortage of copper. While this should spell more doom and gloom for companies that rely on metals, Sparta Group’s e-waste recycling division wants them to know that copper is one of the few materials that can be recycled repeatedly without any loss of performance. In fact, Sparta comes across copper every day at its e-waste recycling facility.

“There has always been a demand for recycled copper and all indications are that the demand is going to skyrocket. We have a streamlined process for recycling/recovery of e-waste and so much of what comes through our doors has copper in it,” said Sparta President, John O’Bireck

Industry experts say supply chain issues are not the only reason for the shortage of new copper. It can be blamed on several factors, including those listed below:

  • Decline in the discovery of new copper deposits
  • Rise in demand for copper
  • Reduction is quality of copper ore
  • Surge in demand for property building
  • Demand for clean energy

Recycled copper is also gaining interest due to its cost-effectiveness. The production process uses much less energy. Market researcher, Market Data Forecast reports that last year (2021), the global recycled copper market was approximately 64 billion (USD), but it is expected to grow to 95 billion (USD) by 2027.

Copper is required in the in the equipment and devices that society increasingly depends on. For example, it is needed for high-tech products, electrical jobs, tools, musical instruments, fabrication of railways, ships, planes, and automobiles, as well as a long list of other applications.

According to analysts with strategic researcher BNEF, investing in technologies related to recycling could help meet the growing demand for copper supply.

“We know that these shortages are posing a challenge for those who have never thought about using recycled metals, but we strongly believe that this is a great opportunity for firms like ours to show them that using recycled metals makes a whole lot of sense. It not only saves them from waiting for new supply, but it can also be cost effective and is kinder to the environment,” O’Bireck explained.

The Cost of a Data Breach and How Sparta Can Protect You

Teresa Madaleno:

We have had the privilege of handling the electronic waste of some of the most reputable and well-known brands in the world, but we are glad to work with companies of any size when it comes to recycling needs and safe data destruction.

While some organizations might want to skip the expense of an e-waste recycling service, the risk is that it could end up costing a lot more in legal fees if a data breach happens.

Data breaches/theft can occur when devices are trashed and end up in landfills. Many people think if they wipe the computer or restore it back to factory settings, they will be in the clear; however, data recovery tools are so advanced today that it means there could still be a way for a stranger to get to your data.

British Airways had to pay big when they experienced a company-wide data breach back in 2018. The personal and financial information of close to 400,000 customers and employees was leaked. British Airways executives lived under a cloud of uncertainty for two years as people decided whether to join a lawsuit against the airline. British Airways settled the claim in 2021, but some industry experts speculate it cost them over 20 million dollars.

Sadly, British Airways is not the only example. Insurance companies, grocery chains, financial corporations, fitness studios, and even social media platforms have experienced data breaches in recent years. The data that is stolen can be anything from financial information to addresses, banking numbers and even employee medical information. When a data breach takes place, your customers and your employees can suffer mentally and financially. This gives them the right to file a data breach lawsuit against your company.

Safe Data Destruction

At Sparta’s ERS facility in East Toronto, highly qualified technicians deconstruct electronic devices, leaving no chance for data to be leaked. A sophisticated process is followed to destroy data the right way and recycle any materials associated with the device. At ERS there is a zero residual policy. In other words, nothing goes to landfill. When you turn to ERS, it means you are protecting your company while protecting the planet at the same time.

“Companies are paying us for both peace-of-mind, as well as real safety. They don’t have to worry about sensitive information getting out when we carry out safe data destruction for them,” said Sparta President and CTO, John O’Bireck.

If you want to keep your data safe, reach out to ERS through one of the contact methods below.

info@ers-international.com

416-285-0588info@ers-international.com

How to Recycle Your Cell Phone

Lane Simond:

While Sparta Group is a B2B, the company often gets questions directly from consumers. As more people hear about the company’s e-waste recycling/upcycling operation, specific questions about dealing with common gadgets come up. In this blog, we try to answer a question we get regularly: “What is the best way to recycle a cell phone?”

The average cell phone user replaces their phone every two to three years. According to GSMA, the mobile industry’s leading data and analysis source, there are over 10 billion mobile phones in use worldwide. That is 10 billion phones that at some point soon, will be replaced with new phones.

Sparta Group has recycled and upcycled millions of phones for its clients and has built a strong reputation in the industry for safe data destruction. Sparta managers consider a cell phone a “personal item” and therefore process it in the most careful and safe way, thus protecting privacy.

“Our team members are proficient at safe, secure data destruction, which is why some of the biggest brands in the world choose us, but when it comes to consumers, there are steps they can take to not only protect their data, but protect the planet,” said Sparta President and CTO, John O’Bireck

Sparta ‘s e-waste processors offer consumers the following tips on how to recycle a cell phone:

  • Prepare your phone – Before you recycle your phone, take some time to do a factory reset. This simply means that you remove data from your mobile and restore it back to factory settings. Essentially, all apps and their data are uninstalled (erased). Some people remove the phone battery when preparing a mobile for recycling, but this can be tricky and hazardous with many cell phones so you should consider leaving that to the recycler. Gather any charging cables and find out where you can recycle or donate the phone.
  • Donate your phone – In Canada, there are several ways you can donate your cell phone to someone who doesn’t have one but could really benefit from using a mobile. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) has a program called,

Phone It Forward.  Another avenue for donation is through Africa Calling. The non-profit organization collects and donates the phones to disadvantaged people around the world. Except for stores in Calgary, Alberta, Staples stores across Canada collect and recycle cell phones. Both Telus and Bell also have mobile recycling/upcycling programs that handle outdated phones.

  • Trade – When you are ready to upgrade, depending on what type of phone you have, you may be able to trade it in for a new one. The authorized phone dealer will send the old phone to an e-waste recycling firm, like Sparta’s. Many dealers will allow you to put the trade-in value towards your new phone.
  • Certified e-waste recycler – Find a certified e-waste recycler near you that will destroy your old phone. Make sure the recycler has a data destruction policy, and ask if they refurbish the phones and send them overseas. If they can’t provide you with assurances that all data will be safely destroyed and that they do not send the used phones overseas, then take your phone and walk away.

Mobile phones have come a long way; from just being a phone to being a multi-purpose gadget. Today, most people consider a cell phone a necessity. Not everyone can afford a new cell phone though. It’s great if you can pass yours on to someone who can use it. If you decide to recycle your mobile, it is crucial that you choose an e-waste recycling facility that is certified in safe data destruction. In either case – donating or recycling, you can feel good about diverting your mobile from the trash and doing your small part to protect the environment.

Sparta Group’s Solution to COVID-19 in Condos

Lane Simond:

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, many products and technologies have been introduced to address concerns over indoor safety. While Sparta Group is one of many companies that have solutions for offices, schools, factories, and gyms, it’s important to keep in mind that a lot of people live in condos where there are shared spaces, and where it can be harder to address air quality issues.

Some condo building managers will be quick to point out that they are cleaning all the touch points in the lobby and elevator. This is vital, but what about disinfecting the air to protect people against viruses like COVID-19, as well as against bacteria and mold? Sparta Group’s CASPR technology is easy to install, easy to maintain, and it’s an efficient disinfecting solution that can be used in lobbies, elevators, community rooms, and even inside condo units.

CASPR was designed to replicate the naturally occurring process that you find in the outside air. CASPR or Continuous Air and Surface Pathogen Reduction provides a constant reducing of pathogens found in the environment and on surfaces that we touch. There is no need for manual cleaning or constant shutdown of a space so you can reapply disinfectant or adjust the technology before letting people in again.

Sparta’s partner, CASPR Group has been providing touch-free disinfection technology for close to two decades in Europe, South America, and Asia. In the United States, the healthcare industry began using it in 2016. Third-party testing substantiated CASPR Group’s own findings, including a 99.96 percent kill rate on surfaces. It was also proven to be effective against all types of airborne pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, mold, odors, and volatile organic compounds.

“This technology was not originally created as a solution for COVID-19; However, it has proven effective against similar coronaviruses, such as SARS and H1N1. We know that airflow can be particularly challenging in lobbies, elevators, and other common areas, so offering this to our clients who operate condos seemed like a logical move,” said the director of Sparta’s health division, Jason Smith.

CASPR technology comes in the form of an in-duct unit and a stand-alone unit that is often placed on a shelf or counter in an office, or community space. CASPR is not like typical air cleaning systems. In fact, it’s not an air filter. It works by using a proprietary natural catalytic process that reacts with water molecules found in the air, to continuously create effective oxidizing molecules that reduce the level of harmful pathogens. The molecules are delivered at safe levels for surfaces, people, plants and pets.

Whether its COVID-19 or some other virus or bacteria, Sparta Group sees CASPR as a long-term solution.

“We are proud to be working with the CASPR innovators to provide our customer base with this solution today and well into the future. We know that surface and air quality will be a concern long after COVID-19 case counts are low. We know this because the world’s leading medical scientists tell us that infectious diseases are not going away,” said Sparta Group President and CTO, John O’Bireck.

How to Recycle Common Items Not Allowed in Your Curbside Bin

Lane Simond:

At Sparta Group we talk a lot about recycling e-waste at our recycling operation in Toronto, Canada. While our focus might be electronics, we are always ready to share what we know about recycling in general. For example, in Toronto, residents place government approved blue bins at the curb with paper, cardboard, plastic jugs, steel and aluminum cans, as well as glass bottles and jars in them for recycling, but there is much more that can be recycled.

Utilizing recycled materials to create a new product takes less energy than developing that same product from virgin (new) materials. The list below outlines some of the common items many people don’t realize can be recycled.

  • Toothbrushes – there are a lot of recycled or renewable toothbrushes on the market today, such as bamboo, but even a standard toothbrush can be recycled. You can mail toothbrushes to TerraCycle thanks to a partnership with Colgate. TerraCycle does require shipments of about 100 toothbrushes, so you could consider doing a toothbrush collection program in your community. Alternatively, ask your dentist if he/she is involved in a toothbrush collection program.
  • Running Shoes – your old running shoes could become part of a new turf field, playground materials, or a rubber track if you recycle them. Participating Nike stores, like the Nike Factory Store in Concord, which is just outside Toronto, will take your old runners. There is another organization called, Soles 4 Souls that collects all types of used shoes to distribute to those in need. It’s a great way to help people and help the planet by diverting waste from landfill.
  • Eyeglasses – whether they go out of style, or you progress to a stronger prescription, your eyeglasses should not be trashed. You can bring used glasses to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Some glasses stores will also take used glasses, including LensCrafters and Pearle Vision. It is also worth checking to see if any service clubs in your area collect used glasses. In Canada, you can take used glasses to your local Lions Club. The headquarters for the Canadian Lions Club Eyeglass Recycling Centre is in Alberta.
  • Razor Blades – there is a Gillette Razor Recycling Program that accepts all brands of blades and razors. This includes systems and disposable units, replaceable blades, rigid plastic packaging and flexible plastic bag packaging. In Toronto, the sustainable store, Pretty Clean Shop collects the razors and sends them off to Gillette. To make this program work on a large scale, Gillette partnered with recycling experts, TerraCycle.

There are so many other common items that can be recycled. If you type a product name, along with your zip or area code into the search field on the website earth911.com it will tell you if and where that product can be recycled.

All About Data Destruction: Four Tips to Keep Your Business Safe

Teresa Madaleno:

If you own or operate a business, then you and your employees likely rely on various types of electronics to get the job done. The average lifespan of an electronic device is three to five years. These important tools often contain a lot of important data that you don’t want leaked. This is where safe, secure data destruction comes in.

Data destruction refers to the process of removing data from electronic systems. When data is properly destroyed, nefarious individuals can’t retrieve your information. It is important to understand that deleting data is not necessarily the same thing as destroying data.

If you are already well-versed in the subject of data management and destruction, we commend you. Not all businesses are prepared and often say they are blindsided when their data gets into the wrong hands. Data breaches can cost a company millions of dollars. Sadly, many businesses are still at risk because they just throw away end-of-life electronics.

Sparta Group’s e-waste recycling operation, ERS International, has built a strong reputation for proper data destruction. Companies from across Canada and the world rely on ERS due to its best practices. In addition to having a sophisticated data destruction process, the ERS facility in East Toronto is known as one of the most secure recycling/upcycling operations in the industry.

“We’ve been doing safe, secure data destruction for many years now, and with the generation of data being a driving force behind many businesses today, we can expect the demand for our services to continue to grow,” said Sparta President and Chief Technology Officer, John O’Bireck

The Sparta team offers up the following tips to protect your company:

Develop a Data Management Plan– A data management plan is an outline of how data will be managed and stored, along with standards for use, as well as how data will be handled and protected during and after the completion of a project, or during and after the life of the devices being used.

Train Employees – It is important that both IT staff, as well as any staff using electronic devices are educated about data destruction and are told about the steps the company expects them to take when a piece of work-related technology reaches the end of its life. Make it clear that computers, hard drives, etc. must be safely stored prior to destruction.

Set a Data Destruction Policy– Data management involves having a proper data destruction policy. Whether it is desktop computers, laptops, tablets or even company mobile phones, you need to know that there is a mechanism in place to destroy the data found on these devices. Data destruction needs to be taken very seriously. Your policy should state that all outdated technology is collected and managed by certain individuals within the company. Also, it should make it clear that no devices will ever get thrown away and taken to the dump.

Find a Full-Service Electronic Waste Recycler – All your company IT assets should be sent to a full-service electronics recycling company that is proficient at secure data destruction. Choosing a reputable recycling operation with the right expertise and machinery is crucial. Ask the recycler if they are willing to provide you with a certificate of destruction so you have proof that they destroyed your data.

Collecting data comes with great responsibility, and we live in a world where just about every business is gathering data of some sort. Whether you run a small or large business, a data destruction plan should be a top priority. After all, it is paramount that you protect your business, your staff, your customers, and your reputation.

Food Related Emissions and Transportation: Study says fifth of global food emissions come from transport

– Teresa Madaleno:

A lot is said and written about vegetarians, vegans, paleo diets, and keto diets; but you don’t hear a lot about locavore – a person who only eats food produced within a 100-mile radius of home. That could change now that University of Sydney researchers are urging more people to become locavore.

The call for consumption of food grown or produced close to home comes after the university conducted a study that showed that 19 percent of global food system greenhouse gas emissions are caused by transportation.

Sustainable food research tends to focus on the high emissions linked with animal-derived foods, but the Sydney study, published in Nature Food, demonstrated that transport, production, and land use change contribute to 30 percent of total human-produced greenhouse gas emissions. The food transport emissions add up to almost half of the direct emissions from vehicles.

While the authors of the study are in favour of plant-based diets to help the environment, they also suggest that eating locally is just as important.

The researchers calculated that food transportation creates three gigatons of emissions every year, which is equal to 19 percent of food-related emissions. During their analysis, the research team, including physics experts, looked at 74 different countries, 37 different economic sectors, as well as domestic and international transport distances. They discovered that China, India, and the United States are the top food transport emitters. Emissions from the transporting of food is dependent on the type of food being moved from farm to table. For instance, fruit and vegetable transport leads to almost double the number of emissions than the production of other foods. In fact, together fruit and veggies make up over a third of food transportation emissions.

The team from Sydney University calculated the emissions reductions if the global population consumed only local foods. While some areas of the world could never be 100 percent self-sufficient in terms of food supply, the researchers contend, eating locally could be implemented to varying degrees, creating significant potential for reduction in emissions. Aside from adjusting our eating and buying behavior, the study authors suggest using various methods to reduce harmful emissions, including investing in cleaner energy sources for vehicles, and providing food businesses with incentives to use less emissions inducing production and distribution systems.

Sparta Group management find studies like this one helpful since they too are focused on what is best for the planet. Whether it is through energy efficiency products and services, or upcycling and even recycling, Sparta is dedicated to helping companies run more sustainably.

“We understand what the experts from Sydney are saying. No matter what the source, and in this case, we are talking about food; there is not one solution, but several. We established our TruckSuite division to offer transport operators an opportunity to run their trucks more efficiently thus saving time, money, and the planet. However, we understand that when it comes to the food we eat, there are many approaches that can be taken. We all have some responsibility in helping the environment. Sure, eating locally could be part of it,” said Sparta President, John O’Bireck.

Like the University of Sydney, which has a lab called, “Foodlab” to conduct research, Sparta Group has a specially designed Research and Development (R&D) lab used for various projects all aimed at protecting the environment. For instance, the Sparta lab is used to extract precious metals from electronics. According to the United Nations University, the manufacturing of high-tech gadgets uses over 20 billion dollars’ worth of gold and silver annually. Some experts suggest that recycling gold produces over 90 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than mined gold.

“Whether we are talking about the consumption of food or the use of electronics, we know there is plenty of opportunity to do better for our planet. Thanks to advancements in technology, we are living in an age where we can make positive change,” O’Bireck stated.

Note: The locavore movement started in 2005 when three American women challenged their neighborhood to only eat food from within a one-hundred-mile radius. Today, California, Vermont and Oregon are said to have some of the highest number of locavores in the United States. While no specific data is available for Canada, we can tell you that more Canadian restaurants than ever before are including local ingredients in their dishes.

Sparta Group’s Sustainable Photoluminescent Technology

Lane Simond:

Many businesses have emergency plans in place and believe they are adequately prepared for a serious emergency then discover they are nowhere near ready.  Sparta management know there is an easy fix to the problem.

Several businesses discovered that their emergency plans were insufficient during the 2003 multi-day blackout that hit Canada and parts of the U.S. They ended up in the dark and without any workable exit signs. Now imagine if you ran a business and experienced a fire during this blackout. How would anyone find their way out of the building? The answer according to Sparta is ‘photoluminescent exit signs.’

Photoluminescence occurs when a material absorbs photons (light energy), and then emits them when the light source is removed. It is referred to in children’s’ toys as “glow-in-the-dark”. When applied to safety signs it is a great way to guide people out of a building in darkened situations. Sparta Group works with one of the most reputable photoluminescent product manufacturers in the world to offer its industrial and commercial clients photoluminescent exit signs and egress pathway markings.

“These signs are cost effective, eco-friendly, and help reduce the carbon footprint of a business. Electrical signs require a lot of maintenance and depend on the reliability of your electrical grid. Fire exit signs also must be lit 24 hours a day, 365 days a year thus contributing to electrical costs. Our photoluminescent signs only need a good source of light to work,” said Sparta President and CTO, John O’Bireck.

How photoluminescence works

Photoluminescence happens when a substance is capable of absorbing energy photons and then emitting them later as light. Thanks to innovations in technology this eco-friendly light emission that only lasted a few seconds, can now last for hours. Photoluminescent exit signs take their photons from their surroundings, store the energy, and then release it as a glow when the building becomes dark. This means that the placement of the exit sign is important, and it’s something Sparta’s team is proficient at. While installation takes just a few minutes, Sparta staff are always prepared to guide customers. When it comes to maintenance, it is minimal. Occasionally, you have to wipe the face of the sign.

Many U.S building codes now require photoluminescent exit signs and markings. For instance, New York City’s Law 26 calls for all commercial buildings over 75 feet in height to have visible photoluminescent egress markings to provide adequate visibility during blackouts, fires, and other emergencies.

According to global market research firms, new construction in both the commercial and industrial sectors have increased demand for photoluminescent products. Creative building design with increased focus on energy efficiency also means there is a growing opportunity for manufacturers and distributors to expand their photoluminescent customer base.

Some of the Best Universities for Sustainability Studies

Teresa Madaleno:

The climate crisis is a complex subject. Fully understanding environmental degradation, its impacts, and potential solutions requires education. Expanding our knowledge about climate change and sustainability can help us make informed decisions about day-to-day living. It also teaches us about our own responsibility.

In a previous blog we outlined how sustainability professionals are in demand. In this blog, we provide a rundown of some of the best universities for climate and sustainability studies.

Today, many educational institutions have environmental programs; however, some are more focused on climate change and sustainability than others.

  • Harvard University – known as a research university, Harvard has a strong reputation for its comprehensive doctoral programs, including in sciences, engineering, and medicine. Harvard also happens to have a strong Environmental Studies program and offers Environmental and Science Engineering, as well as other climate focused programs. The university itself has an ambitious Climate Action Plan that calls for the shifting of campus operations away from fossil fuels. The goals…fossil fuel-free by 2050 and fossil fuel-neutral by 2026. Harvard has a sustainability Data Hub where people can track what the university is doing to reduce emissions and energy usage.
  • University of California – Berkeley has an advanced program in sustainable management. It covers everything from Carbon Management and Environmental Business Strategy to Environmental Law and Climate Change Risk Mitigation Strategies. There are many other environment and sustainability courses offered at Berkeley. UC Berkeley has had a long-standing history in sustainability research and today course offerings make up close to 50 percent of all campus courses.
  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich – this Swiss school offers a wide array of environment-related studies, including programs on Atmosphere and Climate, Ecology, Environmental Systems and Policy, Forest and Landscape Management, as well as Human Health, Nutrition and the Environment.
  • University of Oxford – the Uk based university offers several environment and sustainability courses, including a Master of Science (MSc) in Sustainability, Enterprise, and the Environment. The Oxford programs address everything from the transition to a zero-carbon environment to sustainable development for both rich and poor. Courses also examine the challenges from a finance and economics point of view. The university offers full and part-time programs. For instance, there is the Oxford Climate Emergency Programme, a 6-week online course. They also have part-time courses in ecological survey techniques, as well as International Wildlife Conservation Strategies.
  • Wageningen University, Netherlands – Netherlands is known for its new innovations and policies related to environmental sustainability, so it’s not surprising that the country has a university with a host of environment-focused courses. Economics of Sustainability, Environmental Sciences, Food Studies, Forest and Nature Conservation, Soil Policy, Air Quality, Environmental Economics, Circular Fashion, and Environmental Technology, are just some of the course topics. Wageningen is considered the world’s top agricultural research institution. The U.S News & World Report ranks Wageningen number one in environment, ecology, and agricultural sciences.
  • University of Queensland Australia – Australia is home to the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. The school boasts an impressive lineup of environmental courses, including coastal and ocean science, environmental management, occupational health and safety, town planning, and geographic science.

According to the online science, research, and technology news aggregator, Phys.org, China is the world’s biggest polluter when you look at the numbers. For example, 60 percent of power in the country is provided by coal and in 2019 China’s greenhouse gas emissions were twice as much as the United States. Still, China is home to Tsinghua University, which made the QS top 10 best Environmental Science University Rankings this year (2022). Tsinghua, located in Beijing, is number 9 on the Qs top 10. Number one is Harvard.

About the Writer: Teresa Madaleno is a former broadcast news reporter, journalism professor, and author. She is Harvard University certified in the Health Impacts of Climate Change, as well as certified by the Netherlands Wageningen University in Circular Fashion. Teresa operates a small communications consultancy.