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Q&A: Lessons from living (almost) plastic-free for a month

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Viola Pruss went (almost) plastic-free for one month, her experiment part of CBC Atlantic’s Waves of Change series.

Pruss wanted to see how achievable a plastic-free lifestyle was and what she could learn about her own plastic use from cutting it out of her life.

Here’s what she had to say.

Q: How did you define single-use plastics for your challenge?

Viola Pruss: For most people it’s just straws or plastic bags … certain packaging. [For this challenge] I expanded it to items that you might use for a little bit longer but you still only use once, like the toothbrush for example. 

Pruss’s bathroom drawers before and after she removed all the plastic items she ditched for the month. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

What was the craziest thing you discovered had plastic in it?

VP: The craziest one from all of them was tea bags. I read in an article in The Guardian that a lot of tea bags are made with plastic to keep their shape, which I thought was insane. I looked at my own tea bags, which one of them once fell into the dishwashing machine and after the dishwashing was done it was still in that perfect little shape.

So I was starting to wonder how many of our Canadian tea bags are also made with plastic in them, and just for the silly purpose of having them look pretty? You hear all these reports of not putting plastic in the microwave, so I’m thinking, “I’m pouring hot water on this plastic tea bag, what happens with that?”

Baking soda and water for homemade toothpaste doesn’t taste great, according to Pruss. (Mike Heenan/CBC)
 
You kept your plastic toothbrush. What other things were you tempted to keep?

VP: I kept the toothbrush, I was very tempted to keep the toothpaste. Because the alternative of using the baking soda, it’s so acidic it kinda starts hurting your gums if you’re not used to it. You do get used to the taste eventually.

CBC New Brunswick radio producer Viola tried cutting single-use plastic from her life for one month. Here’s how it went. 3:53

Did you ever mess up?

VP: Yeah, I did. It’s easy when you’re at home and you’re focused on, “I can’t use these things.” It’s when I went out. Once I went to Tim Hortons for lunch and I made sure to say, “I am eating this here.” But I didn’t think about my drink. The other time I went to the movies and I had an all-inclusive ticket that we were using where you get popcorn and it wasn’t until the end of the movie when I went to throw the bag away that I realized. 

This was Pruss’s fridge before she cleared out all the plastic-packaged items. (Angela Bosse/CBC)

How hard it is to cut plastic out of your life?

VP: If you do it like me, it’s pretty difficult. I couldn’t even fully succeed. There’s so much more to think of. Food-wise is easiest because there are so many options and cleaning supplies is fairly easy if you’re willing to make the switch. It’s not cheap. I think there’s a lot of people who couldn’t even financially support this lifestyle because you do spend more on getting the alternatives, especially if you don’t want to make everything yourself.

This is Pruss’s almost empty refrigerator after she cleared out everything packaged in plastic. (Angela Bosse/CBC)

You also need time. Even making a good bread or if you somehow find milk [in non-plastic containers] and make your own yogurt, all of those things take time.

Then there’s all of the things you can no longer use. But then there’s also all the things that you need to use — if you need to fix something on your house, if you need to fix something on your car, you go to a store — where are you going to get all these items that don’t come in plastic packaging? You realize just how much is out there that’s packaged in plastic and for some of these things there’s just no way around them. 

Out of all the plastic-packaged food items she had to give up, milk was what Pruss missed the most. (Angela Bosse/CBC)

Can you save money living plastic-free in the long run?

VP: I think you would on some items … you can, in general, in life save a lot by switching to certain products, like an electric razor. 

What are some of the craziest plastic-free solutions you found during your research? 

VP: The craziest one was the twig instead of a toothbrush. If you don’t want to use a regular toothbrush and you don’t want to use a bamboo toothbrush because those come in plastic packaging, the alternatives I found was using a cloth or a twig. I don’t know maybe it’s a psychological thing, but I tried the cloth and it just didn’t really feel right.

For produce without plastic stickers, Pruss hit up her local farmers’ market and used fruits and veggies from a farm box program. (Angela Bosse/CBC)

What are some plastic-free changes you actually liked?

VP: I did love discovering the bulk store and also going through the supermarket with a different mindset. Because usually you go in and you pick up one thing that you’ve been buying and you know the product but this kind of forced me to look around and really discover all the items that are available and try some different ones … even making your own cleaning supplies.

I think it’s nice to do the research and learn about what alternatives are out there and sometimes where you can save a little bit of money by making something that’s really easy to make. 

Spices and pantry staples, like flour and yeast to make bread, were easy enough for Pruss to find at bulk stores. (Angela Bosse/CBC)

What was your biggest takeaway from this project?

VP: I don’t think the responsibility for changing the way we deal with plastic should just be with the consumer alone. I think we are the ones that can push for the change but I don’t think we should be the ones carrying all the guilt. We live in a world that’s very plastic dependent … I think then it becomes more of a question of is there an alternative we can use instead [of plastic]? Because it’s sterile, it does keep bacteria out really well so there’s benefits to having it, there’s a reason it was invented. I think we need to look at that and find alternatives. 


Waves of Change is a CBC series exploring the single-use plastic we’re discarding. You can be part of the community discussion by joining our Facebook group or email us: wavesofchange@cbc.ca.

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The 3 Best Canadian Tech Stocks I Would Buy With $3,000 for 2021

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The majority of the Canadian tech stocks went through the roof in 2020 and delivered outsized returns. However, tech stocks witnessed sharp selling in the past 10 days, reflecting valuation concerns and expected normalization in demand. 

As these high-growth tech stocks shed some of their gains, I believe it’s time to accumulate them at current price levels to outperform the broader markets by a significant margin in 2021. Let’s dive into three tech stocks that have witnessed a pullback and are looking attractive bets. 

Lightspeed POS

Lightspeed POS (TSX:LSPD)(NYSE:LSPD) stock witnessed strong selling and is down about 33% in the last 10 days. I believe the selloff in Lightspeed presents an excellent opportunity for investors to invest in a high-growth and fundamentally strong company. 

Lightspeed witnessed an acceleration in demand for its digital products and services amid the pandemic. However, with the easing of lockdown measures and economic reopening, the demand for its products and services could normalize. Further, it faces tough year-over-year comparisons. 

Despite the normalization in demand, I believe the ongoing shift toward the omnichannel payment platform could continue to drive Lightspeed’s revenues and customer base. Besides, its accretive acquisitions, growing scale, and geographic expansion are likely to accelerate its growth and support the uptrend in its stock. Lightspeed stock is also expected to benefit from its growing average revenue per user, innovation, and up-selling initiatives.     

Shopify 

Like Lightspeed, Shopify (TSX:SHOP)(NYSE:SHOP) stock has also witnessed increased selling and has corrected by about 22% in the past 10 days. Notably, during the most recent quarter, Shopify said that it expects the vaccination and reopening of the economy to drive some of the consumer spending back to offline retail and services. Further, Shopify expects the pace of shift toward the e-commerce platform to return to the normal levels in 2021, which accelerated in 2020.

Despite the normalization in the pace of growth, a strong secular shift towards online commerce could continue to bring ample growth opportunities for Shopify, and the recent correction in its stock can be seen as a good buying opportunity. 

Shopify’s initiatives to ramp up its fulfillment network, international expansion and growing adoption of its payment platform are likely to drive strong growth in revenues and GMVs. Moreover, its strong new sales and marketing channels bode well for future growth. I remain upbeat on Shopify’s growth prospects and expect the company to continue to multiply investors’ wealth with each passing year. 

Docebo 

Docebo (TSX:DCBO)(NASDAQ:DCBO) stock is down about 21% in the last 10 days despite sustained momentum in its base business. The enterprise learning platform provider’s key performance metrics remain strong, implying that investors should capitalize on its low stock price and start accumulating its stock at the current levels. 

Docebo’s annual recurring revenue or ARR (a measure of future revenues) continues to grow at a brisk pace. Its ARR is expected to mark 55-57% growth in Q4. Meanwhile, its top line could increase by 48-52% during the same period. The company’s average contract value is growing at a healthy rate and is likely to increase by 22-24% during Q4. 

With the continued expansion of its customer base, geographical expansion, innovation, and opportunistic acquisitions, Docebo could deliver strong returns in 2021 and beyond.

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Manitoba to invest $6.5 million in new systems

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WINNIPEG – The province of Manitoba is investing $6.5 million over three years to replace technical systems used in healthcare facilities, including replacing current voice dictation and transcription services with more modern systems and upgrading the Provincial Health Contact Centre (PHCC)’s triage, call-recording and telephone systems, Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson (pictured) announced.

“Our government is investing in the proper maintenance of information and communications technology to ensure digital health information can be safely stored and shared as needed,” said Stefanson. “These systems will ensure healthcare facilities can continue to provide high-quality services and allow Manitobans to get faster access to healthcare resources and information.”

Dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services are used by healthcare providers to write reports. There are currently approximately 80 healthcare sites across Manitoba using some combination of dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services. Many of these systems are nearing the end of their usable lifespans.

“Across our health system, radiologists and nuclear medicine physicians use voice-dictation services to help create diagnostic reports when reading imaging studies like ultrasound, nuclear medicine studies, X-rays, angiography, MRI and CT scans,” said Dr. Marco Essig, provincial specialty lead, diagnostic imaging, Shared Health. “Enhanced dictation and voice-recognition services will enable us to work more efficiently and provide healthcare providers with quicker access to these reports that support the diagnoses and treatment of Manitobans every day.”

The project will replace telephone-based dictation and transcription with voice-recognition functions, upgrade voice-recognition services for diagnostic imaging and enhance voice-recognition tools for mobile devices.

“Investing in more modern voice-transcription services will help our health-care workers do the administrative part of their jobs more quickly and effectively so they can get back to the most important part of their work – providing top-level healthcare and protecting Manitobans,” said Stefanson. “The transition to the new system will be made seamlessly so that services disruptions, which can lead to patient care safety risks, will not occur.”

The new systems will be compatible with other existing systems, will decrease turnaround times to improve patient care and will be standardized across the province to reduce ongoing costs and allow regional facilities to share resources as needed, Stefanson added.

The PHCC is a one-stop shop for incoming and outgoing citizen contact and supports programs such as Health Links–Info Santé, TeleCARE TeleSOINS and After-Hours Physician Access, as well as after-hours support services to public health, medical officers of health, home care and Manitoba Families.

The current vendor that supplies communications support to the PHCC is no longer providing service, making it an opportune time to invest in an upgraded system that will provide better service to Manitobans, the minister said, adding the project will provide the required systems and network infrastructure to continue providing essential services now and for the near future.

“The PHCC makes more than 650,000 customer service calls to Manitobans per year to a broad spectrum of clients with varied health issues. This reduces the need for people to visit a physician, urgent care or emergency departments,” said Stefanson. “The upgrade will also allow Manitobans in many communities to continue accessing the support they need from their home or local health centre, reducing the need for unnecessary travel.”

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Telus and UHN deliver services to the marginalized

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Telus’s Health for Good program has launched the latest of its specially equipped vans to provide medical services to the homeless and underserved, this time to the population of Toronto’s west end. The project relies not only on the hardware and software – the vans and technology – but on the care delivered by trained and socially sensitive medical professionals.

For the Toronto project, those professionals are working at the University Health Network’s Social Medicine program and the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre. The city’s Parkdale community, in the west end, has a high concentration of homeless and marginalized people.

First launched in 2014, Telus’s Health for Good program has delivered mobile clinics to 13 Canadian cities, from Victoria to Halifax. Originally designed to deliver primary care, the program pivoted to meet the needs of patients in the COVID-19 pandemic, said Nimtaz Kanji, Calgary-based director of Telus Social Purpose Programs.

Angela Robertson of the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (CHC) asserted that marginalized people are particularly susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, as they don’t have access to the basic precautions that prevent its spread.

The clinic is located near a Pizza Pizza franchise; homeless people shelter under its overhang on the weekends, she said. Some have encampments under nearby bridges.

“The public health guidelines and requirements call for things that individuals who are homeless don’t have,” Robertson said. “If the response calls for isolation, that suggests people have places to isolate in.”

And in the shelter system, pre-COVID, the environment was very congregate, with many people in the same physical space, said Robertson. Some homeless persons, in order to keep themselves safe, have created encampments, and the city has opened up some hotel rooms across the city to create spaces for physical distancing.

Even proper hand-washing and hygiene becomes a challenge for the homeless.

“COVID calls for individuals to practice constant hand-washing. Oftentimes, individuals who are homeless use public washroom facilities that may be in restaurants or coffee shops, and many of those spaces are now closed. So there are limitations to accessing those facilities. It’s not like they’re in a community where there are public hand-washing facilities for people who are homeless.”

The mobile health clinic allows the CHC to take “pop-up testing” into communities where there is high positivity and where additional COVID testing is needed. The CHC can take testing into congregate sites and congregate housing to provide more testing, Robertson said.

“The other piece that we will use the van to do is, when the vaccine supply gets back online, and when the health system gets to doing community vaccinations … we hope that we can be part of that effort.”

COVID has contributed to a spike in cases of Toronto’s other pandemic: opioid overdoses. Some community members are reluctant to seek care because of the stigma attached to substance abuse; and COVID has a one-two punch for users.

The first rule of substance abuse is, don’t use alone; always be with someone who can respond to a potential overdose, ideally someone who can administer Nalaxone to reverse the effects of the overdose, Robertson said. “It’s substance abuse 101,” and the need for social distancing makes this impossible.

Secondly, COVID has affected the supply chain of street drugs. As a result, they’re being mixed increasingly with “toxic” impurities like Fentanyl that can be deadly.

The van itself is a Mercedes Sprinter, modified by architectural firm éKM architecture et aménagement and builder Zone Technologie, both based in Montréal. According to Car and Driver magazine, the Sprinter line – with 21 cargo models and 10 passenger versions – is “considered by many to be the king of cargo and passenger vans.”

Kanji said the platform was chosen for its reputation for reliability and robustness.

While the configuration is customized for each mobile clinic, it generally consists of two sections: A practitioner’s workstation and a more spacious and private examination room, so patients can receive treatment with privacy and dignity, Kanji said. The Parkdale clinic is 92 square feet.

“While the layouts vary across regions, they typically include an examination table and health practitioners’ workstation, including equipment necessary to provide primary healthcare,” the Telus vice-president of provider solutions wrote in an e-mail interview. The Parkdale Queen West mobile clinic is designed for primary medical services, including wound care, mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, harm reduction services, mental healthcare and counseling.

The clinic equipped with an electronic medical record (EMR) from TELUS Health and TELUS LTE Wi-Fi network technology.

Practitioners will be able to collect and store patient data, examine a patient’s results over time, and provide better continuity of care to those marginalized citizens who often would have had undocumented medical histories.

The EMR system is Telus Health’s PS Suite (formerly Practice Solutions). It is an easy-to-use, customizable solution for general and specialty practices that captures, organizes, and displays patient information in a user-friendly way. The solution allows for the electronic management of patient charts and scheduling, receipt of labs and hospital reports directly into the EMR, and personalization of workflows with customizable templates, toolbars, and encounter assistants.

But like others tested for COVID, it’s a 24-48 hour wait for results. Pop-up or not, how does the mobile team get results to patients who have no fixed address?

The CHC set up a centre for testing in a tent at the Waterfront Community Centre. Swabs are sent to the lab. “We are responsible for connecting back with community members and their results,” Robertson said.

“This is the value of having Parkdale Queen West being in front of the testing, because many of the community members who are homeless we know through our other services, and there is some trust in folks either coming to us to make arrangements to collect their results, or we know where they are.”

This is a key element of the program, said Kanji – leveraging community trust. In Vancouver downtown east side, for example, where there is a high concentration of marginalized members of the indigenous community, nurse practitioners are accompanied by native elders in a partnership with the Kilala Lelum Health Centre.

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