Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Week 32: Flexitarians Unite!

 

Week 32:

Flexitarians Unite!

I know you eagerly invested some time last week into researching vegetarian meals you might want to spring on your family. If you have picky or unadventurous eaters (or if it’s you), you may have to diplomatically broach this subject. The good news is, there are lots more options out there than simply veggie sticks and hummus. Not knocking hummus. But, you get what I mean.

You may recently have heard the term “flexitarian”. I personally like it, because it doesn’t lump you into a category of any kind. You can eat whatever you want, but, you eat with a conscious understanding of what you’re eating, where it came from, and its effect on the environment. 

  • It encourages mostly plant-based proteins, but doesn’t exclude animal products. It’s more of a lifestyle than a diet, and here are the basics:
  • Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
  • Focus on protein from plants over animals.
  • Be flexible (hence the name), and incorporate animal proteins once in a while, if you want.
  • Eat the least processed, most natural forms of foods.
  • Limit added sugar and sweets.

Flexitarian is basically what we’re suggesting, with sliding scales of animal products in your diet. If you are planning to go vegetarian/vegan or you already are, then you’re already ahead of us!

Challenge 32: Make a vegetarian (good) or vegan (best) meal.

Using the recipes and the groceries you bought last week, this week you’re making a vegetarian meal, that you can share (or not) with your family.

Already vegan or vegetarian? invite a non vegetarian or vegan friend to join you.
If you want a bigger challenge follow the 21 day vegan kickstart.

As we’ve said before, if you’ve substituted meat for an all Doritos diet, vegetarianism isn’t making you healthier. But, if you’re eating balanced meals, and ensuring you're getting your daily intake of vitamins and nutrients, vegetarianism can provide many health benefits like improved heart health, reduced cancer risk, prevention of type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure, decreased asthma symptoms, weight loss, slowing the aging process and improved bone health.

Often I hear from people that going vegetarian was their child’s initiative, and they just followed along. Our kids are recognizing things that we haven’t - that sometimes you have to change things up if you want anything to change! If, on the other hand, your kids have built-in kale detectors, you can try some of these tips.
  • Pureeing things hides a multitude of sins. If you’re having spaghetti sauce, whir in some grated zucchini, carrots, anything that can disappear into that lovely sauce. It won’t change the flavour, but it will provide some more nutrients.
  • Give them a choice between two good options, so they feel more involved.
  • Let them help prepare the meal. This is also called “buy in” - if you helped make it, you’re more inclined to eat it.
  • Make smoothies a regular thing. See pureeing things, above.
  • Eat lots of fruit. Grow from there.
  • Start with milder tasting greens, like baby spinach, and work up to the more bitter ones.
  • Don’t make it a battle. You won’t win.

In your research last week, you will have more than likely discovered that vegetarian options can be easy, filling, and delicious. It doesn’t have to be a hardship to choose a vegetarian/vegan option. It can be a highlight. Eat vegan or vegetarian because you have discovered some great vegan or vegetarian meals, and you’ll get the added bonus of improved health, and saving the planet. Wow! All in one veggie chili. Imagine! 

Yours in Sustainability,
Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood

52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Week 31: What's Cookin'

 

Week 31:

What's Cookin'?

Last week we lit a controversy, which we anticipated and we appreciate the discourse, because listening and understanding differing opinions with respect, and looking for common ground is a bit of a unicorn these days, and this blog is mostly about starting conversations, and opening each other to new ideas. We had lots of input from meat lovers who pointed out that Ontario beef produces a minimal amount of the greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. And, that beef farming is good for the environment because of the way animals graze, and aerate pastures. All these things are true, and we’ve talked about sustainable farming doing exactly that. Yes, it is really great that many Ontario farmers are doing their part for the environment, and that their operations are more sustainable than other provinces and countries. It’s amazing that people recognize the positive impact that farming can have on the climate crisis - it can absolutely stop it in its tracks. That’s why it's important to know your farmer, and know where your food comes from. So, please, if you are purchasing meat, be an informed carnivore, and make sustainable choices. Choose local!

The reality is, while many farmers may be doing exactly the right thing (and we absolutely applaud them for that, and thank them for it),  according to the Beef Farmers of Ontario, only about half of the beef consumed comes from Ontario. So that means, half of the beef in our grocery freezer is NOT Ontario beef, and comes from places who may not have stringent guidelines. Hence, last week’s mention of factory farms, feed lots, deforestation and the unsustainability of this level of consumption. Face it folks. We’re getting a lot of things right, and we’re getting a lot of things wrong. Here comes my soap box speech. Brace yourself.

We can’t continue to divide ourselves into tiny pieces, and claim we’re not part of the problem. We need to think globally, not just about our little corner of the world. Emissions do not magically stop at the border. And if another country is pumping gHgs into the atmosphere, we’re all impacted. 

Beyond that, saying we’re only 2% of the problem is unhelpful. Because if everyone is only contributing 2%, very soon we have a compounding problem, and we end up in a crisis. Oh, wait a minute...hello mirror.

Crop and livestock production accounts for 10% of Canada’s gHg emissions, not including emissions for fossil fuels burned, or fertilizer production, according to the Government of Canada. Hence, it’s one of the bigger players, and all we’d like is for people to consider that when they’re making dinner. That’s all.

All that to say, why not switch it up a bit once in a while? As I’ve disclosed before, our family is not vegetarian. However, we are conscious of where our meat comes from, and who we buy from. We do what we can to mitigate the number of animals we consume, and we have regular vegetarian meals, not all of which are successful I’ll admit! So Laurel, researcher and vegetarian extraordinaire, has come to the rescue. 

Challenge 31: Look at some good vegan/ vegetarian recipes.

There are a lot of great sites out there to help you start: 
 Minimalist Baker | Simple Recipes, Post Punk Kitchen , Ministry of Curry,  This Savory Vegan 

Or check out a vegan cookbook at your local public library.

If you feel like jumping in wholeheartedly, before the holiday feasting begins, try this 21 day vegan kickstart that has lots of recipes to help you along the way.

Then, pick one or two recipes that sound good, that you’re willing to try. Add the ingredients to your shopping list. 

If you get really into it, here’s an article on how to go vegan in 5 easy steps, written by a meat eater. 

There are levels of commitment to changing this particular habit. Do what you can to mitigate your carbon foodprint. If you’re eating pasture-raised beef, raised by your farmer friend and buying a whole side, you’re doing what you can. If you’re choosing a meatless Monday every week, or limiting the quantity of meat you eat per meal, that’s good too. If you’ve decided to raise your own sustainably grown chickens, and put them in the freezer, way to go. If you jumped in and realized you enjoy a vegetarian lifestyle, then yay you. As always, we’re asking you to be curious, to explore your options, and choose changes you can live with. See you next week!


Yours in Sustainability,
Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood


52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Week 30: How Can You Have Any Pudding?

 

Week 30:

How Can You Have Any Pudding?

In the immortal words of Pink Floyd, how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat? It’s a good question. Meat has been a staple in the Western diet for a really long time. It used to be a luxury. Now, it’s a requirement for many of us. The debate rages on - is vegetarianism better for you, or is it okay to be a carnivore? Well, I’ll leave all that up to you to decide for yourself. Depending on your initial premise, you can google “is vegetarianism bad” or “is vegetarianism good” and you’ll get two (mostly) logical, yet opposing views. So, let’s leave the ethics and the health out of it for now. We’re focusing on climate change, and what we can do to counteract it. And, I’m sorry to say, the target is on meat as a big player in the pollution game.

Worldwide over the past 50 years, as we have made tremendous advances in some ways, meat consumption has quadrupled to over 320 million tonnes per year! As we’ve discussed, meat production requires massive resources, like water, land, and feed, which has to be grown on even more land, requiring even more water. 

Animal agriculture is the second worst culprit of human-generated carbon emissions, contributing about 20% of the world’s gHgs. Animals produce 30-40% of the world’s methane emissions, and much of that is in how factory farms raise their animals,the sheer number of animals raised, and the prevalence of cheaper feed (like corn) which is not a normal part of their diet. Hence, the reason cows get a bad rap. It’s not their fault really - they were designed properly by nature, and they were domesticated for centuries before big business figured out a way to exploit them, and it all went downhill from there. Farming sustainably is a game changer, and animals are a big part of that cycle. If all our meat was sustainably raised, it would be a different conversation. But, right now, the majority of our meat comes from factory farms. And that’s a problem.


Don’t believe me, or perhaps you don’t want to believe me? Then here we go.

Challenge 30: Calculate your meat footprint.

Visit https://www.omnicalculator.com/ecology/meat-footprint

This challenge isn’t for the faint-hearted. This site calculates how much water is consumed to produce the meat you eat, and the carbon dioxide equivalency of the emissions produced from that meat. I’ll level with you. It’s pretty disturbing. 

If that wasn’t enough, it also lays it out in clear terms, like, “your meat consumption is the CO2 equivalency of x number of cell phone charges, y number of litres of gas”. You get the picture.

After you’ve recovered from your meat footprint analysis, see if you can make some changes to improve your score. See if you can go one week without Beef or Lamb - these are the most carbon intensive meats.

It takes over 15,000 litres of water to raise 1 kg of beef. It produces the equivalent of 85.2 kg of CO2, and needs 326 m2 of land use. For one kilogram! There’s 320 billion kgs of meat consumed annually. It’s mind boggling. Lamb takes 10,400 litres. So, if you can reduce your consumption of these two, you’re having an impact.  

If you haven’t watched the documentary Cowspiracy yet then watch it this week. It’s available on Netflix.

If you really want to dive into some data, you can check out the Climate Change and the American Diet Report by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. It has some interesting statistics on why we eat the way we do, what our preconceived notions are, and a ton more statistics in its 44-page findings.

So, can you adopt different habits, that’s the question. Can you eat less red meat? Can you source your meat from places that farm more sustainably? Can you eat more plant-based proteins? Can you try meatless Mondays?

Again we are at the place where we have to reassess whether what we’ve been doing is working for us. Times are a-changin’. Maybe factory farming was sustainable for a number of years, but, we’re coming to the end of its feasibility. We’re going to have to look at new ways of doing things if we’re going to survive. Yeah, I know that’s a bleak statement.

There are so many ways that modern farming can become the hero in the climate change story, by adopting more sustainable farming practices, which not only help the planet, but improve the health of the farm’s soil, which improves yields, requires less chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and, oh, yeah, sequesters massive amounts of carbon at the same time. It’s a myth that sustainable practises aren’t as productive as conventional ones. Watch Kiss the Ground on Netflix, which connects the dots between healthy soil and healthy humans. Even possibly, whether there will be humans in the future. Throughout history, agriculture has evolved to meet the needs of the planet, and the lifeforms on it. When conditions shift, farmers are ready to tackle new challenges as they arise. So here we are, in the biggest challenge of history. The fight for the survival of our planet and our species. What do we do in the face of that? Time will tell. 


Yours in Sustainability,
Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood


52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Week 29: Rainforest or Ruffles?

 

Week 29:

Rainforest or Ruffles?

Picture this: It’s the weekend. You’re enjoying some well-deserved peace and quiet. You sit down with your favourite person to watch a movie, and, like most of us, you grab a little snack to munch while watching. Whatever you happen to rip open, chances are it contains palm oil. Because at least 50% of everything that is packaged contains palm oil. And our hunger for palm oil is a major contributor to the destruction of the rainforests.

In fact, in every room of your house, you are contributing to deforestation of the rainforest. Palm oil is in almost everything - shampoo, soap, snack foods, cosmetics, candy, and detergent. Despite us knowing that it’s bad, palm oil has become the most widely used vegetable oil on earth. And, some countries are even still using it in biofuel. That’s messed up.

Remember the “fat is bad” craze? Well, when transfats were villanized, we needed something else to provide the “mouth feel” that fat provides. Enter palm oil. Problem solved. Or not. Maybe problem created. Demand for palm oil worldwide has skyrocketed, despite what we know about it.

Why is palm oil bad? Well, there’s a million reasons - human rights violations for one very big one. Child labour, slave labour, questionable labour practices, and hazardous working conditions. Then there’s the destruction of biologically diverse biosystems and the endangerment of thousands of species. Orangutans, rhinos, elephants are on the brink of extinction in Malaysia and Indonesia. But we’re talking about climate change here.

Palm oil is one of the major causes of destruction of the rainforests. As we’ve talked about before, the rainforests are the lungs of the planet. They produce much of our oxygen, and filter much of our air. They are gigantic carbon syncs. When they’re cut down, they release all that carbon into the atmosphere, compounding gHg emissions, and, double whammy, eliminating the forest’s ability to sequester carbon. 

It doesn’t stop there. The demand for palm oil means more land is needed for plantations. Rainforests are cut down, and the carbon-rich land is drained and burned, to make way for planting oil palm trees. Palm oil is contributing globally to one of the worst forms of human-induced climate change. That’s on us. Because we’re the ones buying and consuming these products. So, again, the power to fix it lies with us. 

Challenge 29: Check for palm oil in products

Check for palm kernel or palm oil in foods and cosmetics - and avoid buying them. There are many alternatives. So, choose differently. Read labels. “Farmed” palm oil is not better. It just means it comes from those plantations I told you about. However, sustainably produced, ethically grown palm oil is a better option, if it comes down to a choice.

Corporations get their palm oil from suppliers. Just like many big companies, they say they don’t know the dirty details - that’s the supplier’s problem. But, in 2020, that’s just not good enough. We need to hold corporations to a higher account - they need to take responsibility for the damage they do, and we need to make sure that we aren’t letting them off the hook.

The Rainforest Alliance Network came up with a list of the top 20 corporations who are the biggest purchasers of palm oil globally - The Snack Food 20. On this list you won’t be surprised to see some players who already have bad track records of environmental awareness, to say the least. Nestle, Kellogg’s, Kraft Heinz, PepsiCo, Hershey’s, Campbell’s, Unilever, ConAgra. Well, there’s 20. And, they can be game changers, if they take effective action.

You can take a look at the Snack Food 20, their promises, and the actions they’ve taken (or not) here. There are also links to take action, where you can express your own concerns.

You can decide what stays and what goes. As usual, corporations don’t love the idea of honestly listing ingredients. There are more than 500 different names for palm oil derivatives. So, reading labels isn’t that straightforward. You can check this list which is updated regularly, to see if your favourite snack is a villain. It is not a simple check, mind you. Tip: The fewer ingredients an item has the less likely it is to contain palm oil. 

To compound the issue, the WWF is not promoting we abandon palm oil as an ingredient, claiming that substitutes could be even more harmful to the environment, requiring more deforestation. They advocate for sustainable, ethical palm oil production, and supporting companies who have made that commitment. Again, being an informed consumer is the best way you can mitigate the damage you are personally doing with your purchasing habits.

Today, right now, you can make some serious commitments yourself about what you’re going to invest in as a consumer. Because (broken record time), it’s up to you and me to change our purchasing habits, and send a message about what we will and will not accept. Until we do that, not much will change. We have to put our money where our mouth is.



Yours in Sustainability,
Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood


52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Week 28: Trash or Treasure?

 

Week 28:

Trash or Treasure?

Before we get on to this week’s challenge, thank you to all the folks who wrote to express their interest in fossil-fuel free investing. If you want to take action, take a look at Shift Action for Pension Wealth and Planet Health. If you are a teacher and you want your pension to be more earth friendly, sign this open letter. There’s also an open letter to ask for CPP to be more sustainable too. Thanks to Patrick DeRochie for sending this information!

Now, on to Challenge 28!

Every few months I get really tired of the accumulated stuff that seems to build up when I’m not looking. I made the mistake of reading Marie Kondo’s book on tidying, and not only am I still living with clutter, but now I am dissatisfied by the number of things that don’t “spark joy” in my home. I’m not exactly sure how a drawerful of mismatched cutlery is supposed to spark joy, but, regardless, it remains. 

Have you ever stopped to really look around your house? Every single thing you own had to be manufactured somewhere. And shipped. And shipped again. Then, you brought it home (more shipping). The massive environmental cost of all our purchasing is something worth recognizing. When you buy something, you’re not only paying with dollars. You’re paying with carbon footprint. Remember way back in May when we talked about the North app? Remember that Laurel’s new shirt was her biggest carbon cost that month? The manufacturing and shipping cost to our environment is monumental. With a global economy, a lot of our things come from thousands of miles away. You can mitigate some of this impact by shopping local, and finding items that are Canadian made. Of course you already know that higher quality items are a better buy, because they last longer. If you have to buy three t-shirts to match the lifespan of one quality shirt, that’s not a deal.

Beyond the actual item, there’s the packaging that comes along with it. That stuff (often styrofoam, plastic and twist ties) was also manufactured and shipped, and is more than likely going straight to your landfill.

So, it’s time to talk about how much stuff we have, and how we can buy more responsibly, and purge without adding to our footprint.

Challenge 28: Get familiar with buy & sell sites.

Get familiar with sites that sell, or give away new and used items. Freecycle.org, facebook marketplace, Kijji.There are tons of Facebook groups that are local and make it easy to exchange goods. 

I am a big fan of these sites because I can very easily post photos of stuff I don’t want, and some wonderful person will see it, think it’s terrific, and offer me cash for taking it away. Amazing!

Anything from soup to nuts is listed on these sites. There are also thrift stores, and consignment stores, where you can find a plethora of items that are in great shape, and are just as good as something brand new. Many of them use the profits to help local charities, so you are also helping those in need.

In a normal year (not you, 2020), there are seasonal sales, like the Mother of all Yard Sales, the Mom 2 Mom sales, and Clothing Exchanges, hosted by forward-thinking locals. Great ways to get rid of things you don’t want, and find new things that you do.

So before you head to big box stores, check out your other options. You will save money buying something that’s good as new, you’ll avoid wasteful packaging, and you’ll feel good about doing something nice for the planet. 


Yours in Sustainability,
Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood


52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Week 27: Vote with Your Dollars

 

Week 27:

Vote with Your Dollars!

Did you know that while the rest of us (I’m calling it “us”, since you’re reading this article) have been trying to reduce our carbon footprints and looking for ways to heal the planet, our five big banks have been doubling down on investing in fossil fuels, and working against the Paris Climate Accord?

It seems they haven’t gotten the message that the world is moving toward sustainability. Instead, they’re doing what lots of big business is doing. Burying their heads in the (oil)sands, and ignoring that the world is on fire.

Here’s the really disturbing part. From 2016-2019, Canadian banks invested $482 Billion in the fossil fuel industry globally. And, domestically, they finance about 70% of the oil sands. OUR banks. AFTER the Paris Accord. You know, where Canada committed to serious action on climate change? Epic failure on all our parts.

Internationally, Canadian banks are some of the top contributors to climate catastrophe. RBC leads the dubious pack, with over $135 billion in fossil fuel investment since 2016. That’s YOUR money.

The thing is, the Big Five are behaving just like any business would, when left alone. We haven’t been paying attention, and they have been running unchecked, with scissors. We invest our hard earned money with those banks, and they do with it what we let them. While you’re getting dinged ridiculous banking charges for letting them hold your money, the 5 bank CEOs collected over $62 million in bonuses - on top of salaries - last year. Kind of sickening. 

But, they will argue that it’s not their fault we aren’t paying attention. Banks have no conscience, or moral compass. They just do what they can to make as much money as they can. After all, didn’t we just ask them for the fastest growth, and biggest rate of return? Come on - they’re just doing their job. It’s the nature of the beast.

To an extent they’re right. When you deposit your money in the bank or buy investments, do you know where it’s going? Do you know what your money’s doing when you’re not looking? I’m betting you don’t. Because I didn’t either, until I started digging into it a few years ago. But now I do. And, you can too.

Because, now, there’s a lot more at stake than there has been before, and we need to get in the game, or consider ourselves accomplices to our own destruction. Don’t you want to know if your money is actually working against you? Here’s a great study by the Rainforest Action Network on Canadian banks and Global Warming.

If your bank won’t divest from fossil fuels, divest from your bank.

Challenge 27: Switch to a fossil fuel free bank.

Over the next several months, look into switching (Good). Begin by opening an account at a fossil free institution (Better). Go all in and start the switch (Best). Send a letter to your old fossil invested bank to tell them why you left (Above and Beyond).

Below 2 Degrees published a great article recently called Why You Must Fire Your Fossil Bank. It argues that people can use their financial clout to influence big banks to act more ethically and sustainably. One person divesting doesn’t do a whole lot. But, a movement of people divesting, and letting the banks know why they’re divesting has a big impact.

We’re not just talking about your savings account. Move your mortgage. Move your credit line. Change your credit cards. Change your investments. Change whatever you can, to get away from the Big Five.

Admittedly, some are at the mercy of pension funds. Lucky you to have a pension, but unlucky that your investment decisions are out of your hands. CPP continues to invest in fossil fuels, despite our government’s commitment to the Paris Accord. That’s because the concept of “fiduciary duty” - acting in the best interests of the client - needs to come into the 20th century to reflect a broader interpretation of what’s best. It’s not in our best interests to collect pots of money while the planet burns. Write (or keep writing) to your organizers to demand divestment. It’s incredibly important that your financial profile reflects your ethics. Band together as a group to push for change. 

Where do you start, if all the banks are in cahoots together? Leave big banks. Credit Unions are a viable alternative. Anyone can join. The difference is, you become a member of the credit union, which doesn’t cost anything. They aren’t driven by profits, they’re driven by member satisfaction, so already you’re ahead of the game. It’s more democratic, because each member gets one vote, instead of each share. So, whether you have $1 in an account or $1 million, you get the same say. 

There are a few credit unions in our area, Meridian and Desjardins to name two. If you want to learn more, here’s a step by step to switching:  Switch to a Fossil-Free Bank

If we want our money doing good in the world, we need to take control of it. We need to invest consciously. Look beyond the names of funds, and rates of return, into where your money is going. We have to look more holistically at what our investments are doing. They may be earning you a lot in dividends, but they’re costing us everything.
 

Yours in Sustainability,
Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood


52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Week 26: Get Unscreened!

 

Week 26:

Get (Un)Screened!


When my kids were 7 and 10, we were stressed out about how much time they were spending on screens. Whether TV, video games, or phones, it seemed they were always staring at something. My husband joked their eyes would turn rectangle-shaped. And so we launched what we called the “no screen challenge”. We created incentives for increments of time they went without any screens. They could stop at any time, but if they kept going, the prizes got bigger. Ironically, all that time I spent watching game shows as a kid paid off! I built a pyramid of prizes, starting with 1 day without any screens (gum), up to two months without screens (day trip adventure, their choice). I stopped there, because I figured there was no way they would make it to two months. Well, they did. To our utter amazement, they did. And so, we spent a day at Wonderland, with all the bells and whistles. I only wish I’d been smart enough to keep going, because that was the last time they wanted to take on the “no screen challenge”!

This week, we’re going to try the same thing at your house. No, we’re not asking you to pack it all in for two months! We’re trying one night at first. And maybe, if you find it isn’t as horrible as you imagine, keep it going.

Challenge 26: Go screenless for one evening.

No TV, no computer, no devices, no checking email or texts. Turn off your phone. Connect with your friends and family instead.

Something really lovely happens when you turn off your screens. I get the same feeling when the power goes out (at least for the first couple of hours!). There’s a peace that settles in. A kind of letting you off the hook of having to be in constant contact, or having to make “busy” work out of every moment. Or having to respond to someone else’s sense of urgency. The hum of daily life subsides, and you’re left with just each other. 

My grandmother had a saying that I wholeheartedly embrace. She said “the phone is there for my convenience, not someone else’s”. If I need to contact someone, I can. If it’s not convenient right now (another one of her sayings), I can choose to ignore it. Genius. And for her, it was just turning off the ringer. Now, going radio silent is more of a challenge.

Maybe you’re a person who feels really uneasy with your phone off. That’s OK - settle into it. You’re going to be fine. Remember, we’ve only had smart phones attached to us for about a decade. We all survived then without them. You’ll be OK! So will your kids (especially your teenagers), who may feel differently. Notice that emotion - is it healthy? Is it realistic to be plugged in 100% of the time? Your ego will try to coerce you that you are too important to be offline for a whole night. Resist the temptation. The world will continue to turn without your “likes” for a few hours. 

An interesting study came out this week that showed people who abandoned Facebook for a week were happier, slept better and generally were more positive. Those who dove into facebook reported feeling depressed, pessimistic, frustrated, angry, and overwhelmed. You may not even realize how draining it is with all those opinions flying around. Are you being informed, or are you being used? Do you actually “like” any of what you read, or is it just wasting your time?

We got sold a bill of goods when we heard that technology was going to give us more freedom from the office. Is that what happened? Or are we now expected to respond to every email or call whenever they happen? It sure feels like the idea of “home time” and “office time” have become blurred together, so now, regardless of what you’re doing, you’re never off the clock. Germany implemented an amazing law that bosses are not allowed to contact employees outside of office hours. Yes - it’s actually illegal for your boss to email you on the weekend, and expect a response. More genius!

A caveat: If you are someone whose response time is immediate, make sure you inform friends and family that you are going offline for the night, so your absence doesn’t alarm anyone! Turn on your out of office notification. It’s time for some work/life balance.

My family has tried a no screen night once a week, many times, with varying degrees of success. So I’ll share with you the successes and failures from our attempts, in the hope that you avoid some of our pitfalls.

Pitfall 1: Don’t make it a big production, or you’ll burn out fast. Plan a simple activity together, a meal at the table, prepping and cleaning up together. Play a game everybody likes. Go for a hike. Maybe you play instruments and like to sing together. No one said a campfire atmosphere can’t happen indoors (or outdoors for that matter). Keep it simple.

Pitfall 2: Don’t expect every week to be a high energy night. Some of our best nights were just curling up by the fireplace, everyone with their own book, and reading in the same room. Alone, together. 

Pitfall 3: Don’t make it rigid. Turning into the screen police is going to get you nowhere. If something comes up, switch nights, so you’re not giving up, but you’re not giving in either.

If you really get inspired, turn off the lights too. Embrace the Danish custom “Hygge” - making coziness, comfort and reverence out of ordinary moments. Think warm socks, big blankets, candlelight.

I know by now you recognize that using less energy reduces your carbon footprint. But, something else will also happen. You’ll recharge your own batteries. You’ll feel less anxious, less rushed, less pressured. You’ll find that screens actually drain your energy too. And taking a break from them is healthy. Sometimes inspiring. So, be curious, and recharge yourself. Connect with those you love. You may learn some things you didn’t know about them, and maybe about yourself too. 

Yours in Sustainability,
Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood


52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.

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