Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Week 6: Get Your Hands Dirty

Transportation is a big part of the carbon footprint of the food you eat. As our weather improves, we’re able to grow an awful lot of food here right in our own backyard, and now is the time to plant, if you haven’t already. 

Agriculture is also a big source of carbon in our atmosphere. The less we rely on imported food, and the more self-sufficient we are, the more we can reduce the footprint of our agricultural industries. The closer to home you can get your food, the lower the carbon footprint of that food. And it doesn’t get any closer than your own yard, or balcony, or sunny window. 

Growing food is surprisingly simple - almost foolproof really. With a little soil, sunshine, water and seeds, you get a bountiful harvest. Not only will you get the satisfaction of tasty, chemical-free, fresh, nutrient-rich food, you’ll save money, and reduce your carbon footprint. You also know exactly where your food came from, and in these times, that peace of mind can be very satisfying.

Challenge 6: Plant something you can eat. 

Even if you live in an apartment, you can grow food. A good sized pot will yield tons of produce: tomatoes, strawberries, greens, herbs, even peppers will thrive in a sunny window. You’ll be surprised how many tomatoes one plant can produce! 

If you’re lucky enough to have more space, branch into the outdoors. This year, I planted six raised beds, then got a little carried away and planted another patch of raspberries, strawberries, corn, and squash that need more space. Raised beds will apparently yield up to six times more than a traditional garden plot. Time will tell!

If you’re new to this, here’s a resource from to help you get started. Don't be too hard on yourself. This isn't supposed to be super serious - if something fails, chalk it up to experience. But, vegetables like greens, carrots, tomatoes, peas, beans and squash are abundant and easy for everyone to grow.

Let us know how you’re doing. Send in your pictures and help us grow our garden gallery. Enjoy getting out in the sun, digging in the dirt and connecting with nature. That first bite of a sun-warmed tomato fresh off the vine will be worth the effort.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Week 5: Expanding Our Bubble

We are all at different stages of our climate change journey. Some of us have been learning and acting on this issue for many years. Some are just waking up to the seriousness of the situation. Others are still on the fence about whether we have anything to worry about at all, or in absolute despair over the massive scale of the problem. That’s OK - wherever you are, you can still find things that make you think. There are still ways you can help. There are still people you can learn from. Be open to new ideas and where they may take you.

There isn’t a magic fix for this issue, and so, there are many conversations, opinions and perspectives that come into play. If something you watch or read doesn’t resonate with you, don’t give up entirely. Try something else. There are many layers to unravel, and you will find something that speaks to you directly. 

Challenge 5: Watch a documentary about climate change.

This week, find a rainy afternoon to watch a documentary or two. We’ve included a list below, but there are tons out there. There are so many people talking about this issue. Look at it from a few angles. 

A picture is worth more than a thousand words. For instance, watching bird’s eye footage of the oil sands or fracking brings the reality of what is going on into sharp focus. One image of a sea turtle with a straw stuck up its nose tipped the scale toward a massive movement against single-use plastics. e.e. Cummings wrote, “the eyes of my eyes are opened.” Once that happens, you can’t pretend you don’t see.

Pace yourself, in general, it is not easy to learn what we need to change or how we are impacting the environment. Often it feels like no matter what we do, we are causing damage somewhere. Some of the information will be disheartening. Some will be downright depressing and you may be inclined to throw up your hands in defeat. Some will make you angry. Some you may completely disagree with. Some will lift you up. And hopefully, somewhere in all those emotions, you have more awareness, and take inspired action.

Resilience Documentary:  An overview of climate change, and its impact on our planet, and what we can do, through the lens of our local community (Local) free online.

River Blue: An exploration of the importance and fragility of fresh water, and the danger world rivers face from industries and pollution (from $5.99)

Before the Flood: A riveting account of the dramatic changes occurring around the world due to climate change, as well as the actions we as individuals and as a society can take to prevent catastrophic disruption of life on our planet. The film follows DiCaprio as he travels to five continents and the Arctic speaking to scientists, world leaders, activists and local residents to gain a deeper understanding of this complex issue and investigate concrete solutions to the most pressing environmental challenge of our time. (Also Available from Collingwood Library, Amazon rental, Google Play, iTunes $4.99). There is a follow up to this documentary: Before the Flood discussion guide

The True Cost: Exposing the impact of clothing manufacturing on workers and the environment. Buy ($8.99) or rent ($5.99) on YouTube Movies.

An Inconvenient Truth: Debuted in 2006, it is one of the first to raise the alarm about climate change. An Inconvenient Truth makes the compelling case that global warming is real, man-made, and its effects will be cataclysmic if we don't act now. Still well worth the watch. 

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret: This shocking yet humorous documentary reveals the devastating environmental impact large-scale factory farming has on our planet, and offers a path to global sustainability for a growing population. Warning: some brief, but graphic images that are unsuitable for children or highly sensitive individuals (on Netflix).
Our Planet: Experience the breathtaking beauty of our planet and examine how climate change impacts all living creatures in this ambitious documentary of spectacular scope. Narrated by David Attenborough (on Netflix).

Meat the Future: An exclusive story about an enormous new idea that offers hope to the world. It is about the pioneers behind the birth of the “cell-based meat” industry: a food science that grows real meat from animal cells without the need to breed, raise and slaughter animals. (Free on CBC GEM).

2040: (Google Play, YouTube, Apple, Microsoft, $3.99) to be released in 2020 in Canada.
An inspirational vision of what 2040 could look like, if we embrace the sustainable technologies and solution-focused mindset available to us right now. Uplifting, invigorating and hopeful. 

Chasing Tomorrow: a singularly optimistic view on how to tackle the challenges of today. Seeking out creative alternatives to our current norms of education, agriculture, energy and economics, it looks to inspire people to make local changes and use the power of numbers to impact on a global scale.

Let us know which ones resonated with you most. And if you have other suggestions, let us know. We’ll add them to our Resources page on our blog site. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Week 4: We're All in this Together

After 3 weeks of tracking your carbon footprint, you know more about what your own impact looks like, and maybe you’ve started to think about where you can make adjustments. That’s great news, but if only a few of us are changing our habits, we won’t have much impact.

This week, we’re going to take a look at the impact of humanity’s carbon footprint on the planet, and steps that we collectively can take (or are being taken) to mitigate that. With 7.5 billion people on earth (and growing), simple actions can help (or hurt), if enough of us take them. Even more people thinking about how their behaviour impacts the environment can cause shifts in awareness, and then, in action. That’s how things change: when people become aware of what needs to happen, and then push for that change in more and more places.

There is tons of information out there about climate, and what’s happening on our planet. This week, we’ll get familiar with some newsletters and organizations who look at climate change every day, so you are more informed, and stay up-to-date with developments.

Challenge 4: 

Subscribe to a website that explores climate change, or borrow an e-book (hello social isolation!)  about climate change from your local library. There are more resources available on our blog.

Here are some suggestions, but there are many more out there. Explore, and see which ones appeal to you most:

Newsletters & Websites:

Rocky Mountain Institute
CBC What on Earth Newsletter
Below 2 Degrees C
The 2 Degrees Institute 
Corporate Knights

Subscribe to one site (good); subscribe to 2 sites (better); subscribe to 3+ sites (best).

There have been a lot of interesting developments in relation to stimulus packages, and pushing for a greener focus. We’ve added some of these articles to our resources page. This will get you thinking about how we can direct this injection of funds into our economy in a sustainable direction, that will have a multi-pronged benefit to our planet, our economy, and our communities.

If you come across other suggestions, let us know. If you read a book that really impresses you, send it along. We love hearing from you, and we appreciate everyone who is on this journey with us. See you next Wednesday!

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Week 3: Tracking Your Carbon Part 2

Welcome to week 3! By now you’ve had a week of playing with the North app, and you should have a clearer picture of what your biggest carbon contributors are. Did anything surprise you? Did anything cause you to think twice about your habits? A friend of mine began tracking his daily commute in a Prius no less, and he used up his entire carbon budget for the month - no food, no utilities, no purchases. Pretty eye-opening! We're raising awareness in these early weeks, so if your results are less than stellar, don't worry. We'll get there! Keep using the North app throughout 52 Weeks - you’ll get more tailored data, and a clearer personal analysis the longer you use it.

This week, we’re going to take a deeper dive into what contributes to your footprint, so you can find areas of improvement.

Challenge 3:

  • Gather your gas, electricity and credit card bills.  Then visit one of the following carbon calculators:
  • Enter one month of each bill (good), use one winter and one summer bill (better), or use 12 months of each bill (best).
  • If you want a Carbon Calculator that does not require finding bills try this one:  
  • Make sure you save a copy of your results.
  • For more clarity, you can measure your carbon footprint on all 3 calculators (even better than best!). The footprints will likely be different because they are all estimates. Save your results for week 51!

If you find the results discouraging, do not despair! Most Canadians have carbon footprints that are less than ideal so you are not alone! The most important thing is to understand what choices you make that you could adjust to lower your footprint (and, probably also save money, improve your health, and at the least, give you a different perspective).

Let us know how you’re doing! Post a comment on our blog/social media, or send us an email. See you next Wednesday!

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...