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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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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future

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Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M

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Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.

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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study

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The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”

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