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Go green with your Christmas wrap — and we don’t mean the colour

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All that twinkly, glittery garishness associated with Christmas wrapping makes for a flashy presentation but it’s most definitely not a gift to the environment, says Winnipeg-based Green Action Centre.

So while we’re dreaming of a white Christmas, we need to think more green, the group says.

“It’s quite crazy, actually, the statistics surrounding how how much waste we are sending to a landfill around the holidays,” said Bethany Daman, a co-ordinator at the centre, which develops and advocates for environmental policies for Manitoba communities.

“The stats that we have is approximately 550,000 tons of wrapping paper is thrown out, so it goes to the landfill, in Canada each year.”

That includes things like the shiny wrapping paper as well as the glossy gift bags and the tissue paper used to cover the gifts inside those bags, Daman said.

“All three of those items are not recyclable in Manitoba and the reason is they contain the glitter and they contain plastics,” she said.

“There’s coloured shapes in there mixed with wax, metal and clay content and some of it’s laminated, so there’s too many additives, making it difficult to recycle.”

Use plain paper that comes in rolls, like the brown kraft stuff used to wrap packages for shipping, and decorate it with string, leaves and twigs, says Environmental Defence, a Canadian environmental action organization. (Environmental Defence)

Maps are another colourful alternative for wrapping paper. (Green Action Centre)

The Green Action Centre tries to help people come up with alternatives that take the unnecessary glitz out of gift wrap.

“If you have a scarf or something, you can actually turn that into quite a beautiful wrapping piece. You can use the ends of the scarf to make a bit of a bow at the top,” Daman said.

“Or something that someone in our office is doing this year is using tea towels to wrap her gift.”

Other suggestions include using plain paper that comes in rolls, like the brown kraft stuff used to wrap packages for shipping.

Decorate it with stamps or markers or “get crafty and make your own embellishment from paper, string, leaves and twigs,” says Environmental Defence, a Canadian environmental action organization.

Or find old magazines and make a collage, Daman suggested.

“If there’s a little bit of glue, it’s going to be fine to put in the recycling after. As long as [you’re not using] glitter glue or an excessive amount of paper glue, that’s gonna be totally fine,” said Daman, and she agrees that markers and stamps are a great way to dress it up.

An excellent alternative to wrapping paper is fabric, which is reusable for years, says Anna-Marie Janzen, who runs the website Reclaim Mending. (Submitted by Anna-Marie Janzen/Reclaim Mending)

Fabric comes in many colours that can be as festive as glossy Christmas wrap, but lasts longer and is more friendly to the environment. (Submitted by Anna-Marie Janzen/Reclaim Mending)

Same with a little bit of brushwork. But only a bit.

“If you’re doing a bunch of painting on it, that’s not going to be OK to recycle,” she said.

Not only are these options better for the environment, they show the person getting the gift that there’s been a lot of thought put into it.

“I definitely think that that ends up being a more special way of presenting the gift as opposed to just going to the mall, picking something up, getting it wrapped and then just presenting it to them,” Daman said.

“It’s something that you remember for so much longer when you’re actually having that effort put in.”

Reclaimed fabrics also make for durable reusable gift bags. ( Anna-Marie Janzen/Reclaim Mending)

“If you have a scarf or something, you can actually turn that into quite a beautiful wrapping piece. You can use the ends of the scarf to make a bit of a bow at the top,” says Green Action Centre’s Bethany Daman. (Green Action Centre)

Reusing newspapers is another inexpensive, easy and green alternative. Flyers advertising Christmas sales can make a colourful substitute for traditional wrap.

If wrapping isn’t your preference, an option is to get reusable cloth Christmas bags, Daman said.

“They have holiday designs on them and a lot of them are made from reclaimed material, so you can just use that bag over and over again from year to year and you can buy them in a variety of sizes.”

Substitutes can even be found for the tissue paper, said Daman, who recently put together a gift for a friend who likes cycling.

Most coloured, glossy paper cannot be recycled because of the inks and other additives. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Like the shiny Christmas wrap, these types of gift bags cannot be recycled, but you can reuse them to extend their life and keep them out of the landfill as long as possible. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

“I took an old cycling map and I used that as tissue paper in the reusable shopping bag. It was something that was going to get recycled anyway because it was an outdated map, but I was able to use that in a creative way that also reflected something of the person,” she said.

If you happen to be on the receiving end of a glossy gift bag, the best way to contribute to the environment is to save it and get as many additional uses out of it as possible before it goes to the landfill, Daman said.

Same goes for the wrap, said Rachel Kitchin of Environmental Defence.

“If your parents and grandparents are anything like mine, they probably also save all their wrapping paper and carefully fold it up to be reused next year. This might seem old fashioned, but it’s actually a great attitude that we could all use a little more of.”

While recycling is important, reusing is better, “because an endless stream of recycling isn’t sustainable,” Daman said.

“There’s still resources going into processing that recycling, so we have to think about always reusing what we have and then finding a recyclable alternative.”‘

And in the end, that’s a present to everyone.

“A sustainable gift is a gift to future generations and if we’re thinking about the future, we’re thinking about the Earth,” said Daman.

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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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