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Alberta

“The Planet is not an Ashtray” – It’s Time to Stop Throwing Cigarette Butts on the Ground

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever witnessed someone flick their burnt out cigarette butt onto the ground while they’re standing outside the pub, or walking down the sidewalk. Or, if you’ve ever driven over a still-lit cigarette on the road after the driver in front of you chucked it out the window of their moving car. 

In a public setting, throwing a soda can or an empty coffee cup onto the ground is a hard no, often met with swift social backlash by surrounding witnesses. So why, then, is it considered socially acceptable to throw cigarette butts – literal chemical trash on fire – onto the ground?
While the act of discarding a cigarette butt onto the ground may seem insignificant in the moment, statistics show the staggering and destructive impact this decision has on the environment when made by millions of people every day. 

According to a National Geographic article released in August 2019, cigarettes are the top plastic polluters around the world. Globally, approximately 6.5 trillion cigarettes are purchased each year, and of those, “an estimated two-thirds of the trillions of filters used each year are tossed into the environment.” 

Cigarettes are not biodegradable. The breakdown that results from weathering and time spent in the elements leads to further environmental degradation, as thousands of microscopic plastic fibers and chemicals are released. The chemicals found in cigarette ash and filters, which include arsenic, lead and benzene, among others, are poisonous to the environment and its inhabitants.
In 2019, a study led by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) was published in the journal of Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety highlighting how cigarette butts significantly reduce plant growth. “We believe it is the chemical composition of the filter that is causing damage to the plants,” says co-author Dr. Bas Boots, “Most are made from cellulose acetate fibers, and added chemicals which make the plastic more flexible … may also be leaching out and adversely affecting the early stages of plant development.”  

In addition to inhibiting early plant growth, cigarette litter consistently ends up in waterways that lead to surrounding rivers, lakes, and the ocean. This contaminates the water with dangerous chemicals and plastics that poison marine life and other animals, who often mistake cigarette butts for food.
Not to mention, in regions experiencing hotter, dryer climates, cigarette butts can lead to wildfires when discarded before being properly extinguished. In June 2019, the Vancouver Island Fire Department responded to 7 fires in 7 days, all of which were caused by improperly discarded cigarette butts. 

The social norm that permits cigarette butts as an acceptable form of litter is far outdated. Cigarette litter should be held to the same standard as all other forms of chemical and plastic waste that negatively impact the environment, meaning the onus is on the user to ensure proper, safe disposal. 

Brain Garden is a family run business based in Vernon, British Columbia, on an international mission to eliminate cigarette litter and its detrimental environmental effects. 

Founded by ‘Head Gardener” Jack Elliman in 2013, Brain Garden manufactures eco-friendly, airtight Pocket Ashtrays for safe, on-the-go disposal of cigarette butts. When users drop their lit cigarettes into the Pocket Ashtray and snap it shut, the airtight seal extinguishes the butt and traps the smoke, successfully tackling two of the main reasons individuals litter in the first place – convenience and lingering smell.
The inspiration for the Pocket Ashtray originated in the transformational festival industry, where individuals are encouraged, if not required, to leave no trace. Though not as commonly as on a city sidewalk, even there, Elliman noticed, cigarette butts were ending up on the ground. It was there Elliman identified the need for a convenient, eco-conscious solution to keep cigarette butts from ending up in the environment.

From there, the environmentally friendly invention has expanded into the global market as a convenient, educational product that leads to less cigarette waste littering our towns, contaminating our waterways, harming our wildlife, and causing wildfires.
“It really comes down to education,” says Elliman, inventor of the Pocket Ashtray, “people forget that cigarette waste is toxic waste, and now with COVID, it’s a biohazard as well.” Since the launch of Brain Garden nine years ago, hundreds of thousands of Pocket Ashtrays have been distributed to cities, fire departments, music festivals, cleanup groups and more worldwide. 

The story doesn’t end there, however. The Pocket Ashtray goes one step beyond simply keeping cigarette litter off the ground. Once the Pocket Ashtray becomes full, the contents can be mailed to TerraCycle using free shipping labels provided by Brain Garden, compliments of TerraCycle. From there, TerraCycle composts the remaining paper and tobacco and recycles the cellulose acetate. 

“We are approaching 1000 total pounds of recycled cigarette litter with TerraCycle,” says Elliman. This half-ton milestone is a result of global participation in various Brain Garden cigarette litter campaigns, including “butt barrels” and “butt buckets” which function alongside the Pocket Ashtrays.
The funds generated from the recycling process with TerraCycle are then put towards the Brain Garden Wildfire Prevention and Education Campaign. This campaign focuses on reducing wildfire risk by providing free Pocket Ashtrays to the smokers, promoting safe and responsible cigarette disposal, and educating the public about the dangers of improperly discarded cigarette butts. 

It’s 2021. Time to respect the environment, be a good human and use an ashtray.

For more information on the Pocket Ashtray and how to join Jack Elliman and Brain Garden on their ongoing mission to protect the environment from the largest global plastic pollutant, visit https://braingarden.ca

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

Alberta

Edmonton triples venture capital investment in 2023

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Alberta’s tech sector continues its strong momentum, with Edmonton seeing its strongest growth ever, proof Alberta remains a hot tech market.

As global and national investment have declined, Alberta has remained a strong tech market and is showing continued leadership, as shown by Pitchbook ranking Calgary as the 12th fastest-growing tech ecosystem in the world and LinkedIn ranking Calgary as one of the best places to hire and recruit tech workers.

At the end of 2023, Alberta’s five-year growth rate for venture capital dollars invested reached an impressive 48.5 per cent, more than triple Canada’s compounded average growth rate of 13 per cent, according to the 2023 Canadian Venture Capital Private Equity Association fourth-quarter report.

The province’s growth rate means Alberta finished 2023 with $707 million invested over 86 deals, in line with Alberta’s 2022 record-breaking year. In contrast, Canada ended the year with a 31 per cent decline in investments. Over the past five years, Alberta technology companies have secured more than $2.7 billion in venture capital funding across 350 deals, creating thousands of jobs for Albertans.

“While Canada as a whole saw massive declines, Alberta has held steady. We are a major venture capital player in Canada, as technology drives growth across all sectors.”

Nate Glubish, Minister of Technology and Innovation

Alberta’s two largest cities continued to attract investment dollars in 2023, with Calgary and Edmonton coming in fourth and fifth respectively for number of deals, with $501 million invested in 64 deals in Calgary and $188 million invested in 21 deals in Edmonton. Edmonton saw a 324 per cent increase from $58 million in 2022 to $188 million in 2023. In total, Alberta captured 10.3 per cent of dollars invested in 2023 and 13 per cent of venture capital deals in Canada.

“Edmonton’s tripling of venture capital investment in 2023 underscores our city’s position as a dynamic tech capital within Alberta’s thriving innovation ecosystem, reaffirming our role as a powerhouse driving technological advancement and economic prosperity across diverse sectors. It is the local innovators’ relentless pursuit of solutions to real-world problems, with the continuing support of the Government of Alberta, which not only attracts significant investment but also propels our city to the forefront of Alberta’s tech revolution and fosters job creation for our community.”

Launa Aspeslet, interim chief executive officer, Edmonton Unlimited

“At Platform Calgary we are working with our partners to continue this momentum by linking up high potential tech startups with the investors that can help them take their businesses to the next level. The evidence is clear, Alberta is emerging as one of the most exciting and resilient tech ecosystems in the world. Together with our growing tech community, we can secure Alberta’s position as the best place in the world for anyone to launch and grow a tech business.”

Terry Rock, president and chief executive officer, Platform Calgary 

Alberta remains a growing market for the technology and innovation sector, and Alberta’s government celebrates its steady contribution to the Alberta economy, including in the fourth quarter of 2023. The end of last year saw venture capital investments in the province increase by 35 per cent for dollars invested and 19 per cent for deals closed compared with the third quarter. There were 25 deals closed valued at a combined $173 million in the fourth quarter of 2023.

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Alberta

Shining a spotlight on Alberta athletes, sport leaders

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Alberta’s government is continuing to support the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, so it can showcase the province’s sport legacy for years to come.

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame celebrates the accomplishments of more than 1,600 Albertans, from Olympic gold medallists to community sport leaders. To continue supporting this long-standing legacy, the government is providing $302,500 to the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame Museum. This funding will support the operations of the facility and the organization’s management and delivery of the annual Alberta Sport Recognition Awards.

“Alberta’s future is stronger when we understand and preserve our history and celebrate our successes. Places like the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame help us do just that. I’m proud our government is supporting it, as it spotlights Albertans with incredible athletic achievements and community contributions.”

Joseph Schow, Minister of Tourism and Sport

“The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame has long been a cherished attraction in our community, offering Albertans inspiration and a window into the remarkable legacy of our athletes and community sport leaders. With our government’s investment in this institution, Red Deer’s tourism will undoubtedly grow, bringing significant benefits to our community and surrounding areas.”

Adriana LaGrange, MLA for Red Deer-North

“I am pleased to see the government’s support for the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame continue. This organization enriches the sport community in central Alberta, inspires the next generation of athletes and preserves our province’s history in sport excellence.”

Jason Stephan, MLA for Red Deer-South

The Hall of Fame provides a space where the accomplishments of the sport community in Alberta are preserved and inspires the province’s future athletes and community leaders. Albertans recognized in the Hall of Fame include Melody Davidson, who was inducted in 2008 for her excellence in hockey, serving as a two-time Olympic gold medal-winning head coach for Team Canada women’s hockey, and Lanny McDonald, who was inducted in 1993 following a long and successful career in professional hockey. Last year, 12 inductees were nominated, including Patrick Jarvis and Theresa Maxwell for their success in Paralympics and volleyball.

This funding will ensure that Albertans can continue to celebrate the province’s turning-point moments and growing legacy in sport.

“We are grateful for the support we have received from the Alberta government. Their funding has played a pivotal role in sustaining the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, allowing us to preserve and celebrate the rich sporting history of our province. This support not only enhances our ability to showcase the achievements of the athletes, teams and sport champions but also reinforces the significant role sport plays in our community.”

Dale Henwood, chair, Alberta Sports Hall of Fame

“Red Deer proudly stands as a hub for sports excellence, and the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame plays a pivotal role in preserving and promoting our province’s rich athletic legacy. The City of Red Deer is grateful for the Alberta government’s continued support, ensuring that this institution continues to inspire future generations by showcasing the remarkable achievements of our athletes and community leaders.”

Ken Johnston, mayor, City of Red Deer

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame helps grow tourism in Red Deer and the surrounding area by attracting visitors to the facility to enjoy interactive sport-oriented games and activities and sport memorabilia. In the past two years, an estimated 20,000 people have visited the Hall of Fame annually. Exhibits on different sports and sport organizations, including the Hall of Fame Gallery that showcases the athletes and sport builders who have been inducted annually since 1957, are also available to view.

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