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Have you considered buying nothing this Christmas? Here are some tips to reduce, reuse and recycle in gifting

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When coming up with your list of what to buy your friends and family for Christmas this year, have you considered — nothing?

That’s what one Winnipeg woman aims to do during the holidays.

Courtney Worden and her family usually give to charity rather than giving items, but when they want to give something material, she turns to an online community of gift-givers called the Buy Nothing Project.

“Before I spend any money or go to a store or even think about the economy, I will look on Buy Nothing first and see if there’s somebody there who might want to share something with me,” she said.

The group has local chapters in countries around the world, and Worden is the administrator of her Windsor Park and Southdale chapter. When she needs to make a gift for someone, Worden asks the roughly 200 members of the chapter’s Facebook group for materials.

“I’ve personally received gifts of fabric for sewing, ingredients for baking something,” she said.

Other people on the page have shared invitations to holiday dinners, offers of car-seat inspections from a certified technician, and an afternoon of child care from a licensed child-care provider.

If Worden wants clothes or a new toy for her 15-month-old son, she asks the Buy Nothing group.

Courtney Worden often finds gifts for her 15-month-old son on the Buy Nothing Project Facebook group. (Submitted by Courtney Worden)

It’s a way for her to practise the three Rs — reduce, reuse, and recycle — while getting to know her neighbours.

“I like meeting the recipient and knowing on a personal level that I’m making a difference for someone in my community. Just because something isn’t useful to me, that doesn’t mean it belongs in the garbage.”

Memorable and durable

By sharing non-material gifts like services, meals or simply spending time, Worden and the Buy Nothing Project are practising many of the sustainable-giving strategies recommended by the Green Action Centre in Winnipeg.

Bethany Daman, the green living co-ordinator at the centre, has experienced first-hand how finding alternatives to buying gifts can make those gifts more meaningful.

Last year, she and her partner decided to give each other handmade wooden gifts. She took an old piece of wood and turned it into a photo calendar, while he made a cribbage board, complete with handmade wooden pegs.

“And so that was a very sustainable gift, and one that has created memories for much longer than just a cheap gift that somebody got at the mall that I would forget about in two years,” she said.

Taking pieces of wood and transforming them into treasured gifts is an example of upcylcing — reusing waste or byproducts to make something new, Daman said. It’s one of the ways the Green Action Centre suggests people can make holiday gift-giving more sustainable.

Bethany Daman made her partner a photo calendar, and he made her a crib board out of recovered wood. (Submitted by Bethany Daman)

One of most important considerations when deciding on what gift to give is to avoid giving people things they don’t need, and try to focus on things they will actually use, Daman said.

The same year she and her partner made each other gifts, Daman made her parents freezable meals that they could easily heat up in a slow cooker.

“I have gotten texts from my parents saying, ‘Thank you so much for the gift, we’re having your supper tonight and it was so helpful,'” she said.

“It just took more time in thinking, ‘What kind of items am I going to put into these meals, how am I going to package the meal?’ But it ended up being something that made more memories throughout the year.”

Making memories instead of buying things is one of the main ways people can reduce the environmental impact of their gifts. Giving someone an experiential gift, like tickets to a concert or a movie, or taking them to a restaurant are ways people can make memories that will last longer than most material items.

“Overall, it ends up being a much more special experience and it’s something that you think about for much longer,” said Daman.

Sustainable giving

Occasionally, Worden says she needs to go to the store to buy a gift for someone. When she does, the Green Action Centre recommends she look for products that are made ethically and sustainably.

Sherry Sobey, owner of Generation Green — an Exchange District shop that specializes in eco-friendly products — considers the environmental and social impacts of the items she sells on her shelves. She says consumers also need to do some research into the products they’re buying.

“Dig a little bit deeper into that and ask the questions about, is it being made ethically? Is it fair wages? is it a healthy workplace? You do have to care about some of these things,” she said.

Giving durable gifts like stainless steel straws can help reduce the waste created during the holidays. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

Sobey recommends customers think about the durability of the products they buy and look for gifts that help people reduce their waste, like stainless steel straws, coffee mugs, or reusable bags. Many of the products she sells come in refillable bottles that can be brought back to the store.

Also, try to find products that come in minimal packaging, and avoid plastic as much as possible.

“I would put that at the top of the list, is that plastic use and minimizing that wherever we can,” she said.

Few gifts are more sustainable than hand-crafted ones made from recycled or reused materials — and the Green Action Centre’s Daman says in the case of something like the crib board her partner made, they’re the ones that leave a more lasting impression.

“It’s something that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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