Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Week 15: NEATness Counts!

Week 15:

NEATness Counts!

Have you ever wondered why going to the gym, or working out was never really a thing until about 1970? Then it really took off in the 80s, when Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons transformed us by showing us how to really sweat it out. In true 80s fashion of excess and glam, we pushed to the extreme while building “buns of steel” in our neon leg warmers. That did us all a disservice, because it implied that being regularly active wasn’t enough. No pain, no gain, rather than being active in your daily life.

The obesity epidemic is one of the biggest health challenges Canadians have faced. In the 1970s (before the fitness craze), our obesity rate was 9.7%. In 2015, Obesity Canada rated it at 30%, or 1 in 3 Canadians. That’s an astounding increase.

Many of us have jobs that involve long hours sitting in front of a computer. With our pandemic normal, that’s become even more so, with endless zoom meetings and webinars. We are also time-pressed, and many of the things our ancestors used to do, we no longer do. Often we grab meals on the go or buy pre-packaged, instead of making something at home. With so much automation in our homes, there are less calories burned in regular tasks.

We can build back some of these regular activities if we look at them as “exercise” rather than “chores”. There’s even a term for it: non-activity exercise thermogenesis (NEAT). It includes anything you do that burns calories outside of eating, sleeping, or training. For instance, did you know vacuuming for 30 minutes burns on average 130 calories? Cleaning your house actually burns as much energy as a gym workout (neon leg warmers optional). WebMD has lots of tips on how to incorporate NEAT into your daily routine, and, the good news? No membership fees.

“Wait a minute,” you say, “I thought this challenge was about reducing carbon?” Did you know, green lawns have been called an “ecological catastrophe”. In the US, it’s estimated between 16 billion and 41 billion pounds of CO2 is emitted from lawn mowers each year. One litre of gasoline burned in a lawn mower emits 5 pounds of CO2. Reducing our lawn space is one way to address it, or naturalizing part of your lot. Another is to consider battery-powered maintenance equipment. It’s untrue that battery-powered isn’t as good as gas-powered. We recently bought a battery Stihl chainsaw, which my husband says is the best tool he’s ever owned. It cuts up to 100 12” logs on one charge. It’s virtually silent, odorless, starts instantly, and safer, because it’s only live when you press the trigger. 

Challenge 15: Go old school in your yard.

Get your daily exercise and tackle some necessary chores at the same time. Use a manual push mower, manual hedge clippers, rakes, and shovels to get the yard work done. Sweep your driveway instead of using a leaf blower. If you don’t have manual tools, see if you can borrow some to try it out. If you don’t have a yard see if someone near you needs help.

It’s always more inspiring when you have someone to help you. So, invite a friend or a family member to help out. Work always goes by faster when you’re chatting with someone you enjoy. My mom invites my niece to help her a few times a week. She gets to spend time with her grandchild, teaching her by example how to care for a garden, and connecting together. They’re growing an amazing veggie garden, and amazing memories at the same time.

Like all our challenges, this week gives us a chance to slow down, tune in, save money, get healthier and reduce our carbon footprint all at the same time. Get some sunshine, enjoy some fresh air, and afterward, put up your feet and admire a good day’s work.
 
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, 22 July 2020

Week 14: Hung Out to Dry

Week 14:

Hung Out to Dry

Sun and wind. Free gifts of energy that nature provides us. Endless and constant sources that we can use to power almost everything you can think of. So, this week, we’re going to use some of that power in the simplest way possible. We’re going to hang out our laundry.

I’m not sure when clothes lines got such a bad wrap, but let’s put that to bed. White sheets flapping on the breeze is a lovely sight, so if your community has banned clothes lines, you need to get on your council to get with the program. Everybody has clothes. Everybody does laundry. It’s a simple way to save a ton of energy, and money.

Challenge 14: Ditch your clothes dryer.

Hang all your laundry to dry for this week (good). Commit to using a clothesline all summer (better); Hang your laundry to dry, inside or outside, year round (best).

Did you know that air-drying your clothes can reduce your family’s carbon output by 2,400 pounds per year? That’s a huge amount. And if we all line-dried our clothes for just half a year, we’d reduce our country’s total residential carbon output by 3.3%.

Beyond the environmental benefits, think about how much money your wardrobe is worth. Most people have between $3,000-$7,000 invested in their clothing, including shoes and accessories. If you don’t think so, take a little inventory yourself, and calculate how much it would cost you to replace each item. Then take a look at your average load of laundry. With every load, you’re washing at least a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff. So, doesn’t it make sense to take better care of it, so you don’t have to replace it so often?

Clothes dryers are really hard on our clothing. They put wear and strain on zippers and seams. Clothes get tangled up together. They get faded. High heat can melt or shrink garments and cause irreversible damage. Air-drying will prolong the life of your clothing, and save you money.

Clotheslines are awesome. Sure, it takes longer than transferring a load from your washer to your dryer. But, the benefits are worth it. No need for fabric softener, or dryer sheets. Air drying releases odours and leaves your clothes smelling fresh, clean and naturally scented. And your whites will be naturally bleached by the sun, killing germs and eliminating the need for chemical bleaches.

On a sunny, hot day, your clothes will dry almost as quickly as in your dryer. One load on the line can dry in as little as 40 minutes.

The average household spends approximately $2,000 per year to operate their clothes dryer. And, the cost of purchasing a new clothesline versus a new dryer is obvious.

And then there’s the joy of spending 10 minutes outside in the quiet of the day, taking time to stand in the sun and simply hang laundry. It’s peaceful, and kind of enjoyable. And get this - hanging a load of laundry burns about 68 calories. That’s almost a glass of wine. I’m just saying...

Clothes line technology has improved since our grandma’s day. You can still get the old wheel and line systems, or a standard umbrella style. But now there are many options for sleeker, more invisible options. There are full-sized clothes lines, like Brabantia, that fold up tight. against your wall, hidden by a cover, when you’re not using them, and simply pull out and click when you need them.

So, treat your clothes with a little love, and head outdoors this week to hang your laundry. Save yourself a few dollars, reduce your carbon footprint, and earn yourself a glass of wine in the process. A win win all around!
 
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, 15 July 2020

Week 13: The Eyes of My Eyes are Opened

Sherri's nephew catching falling leaves.
“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” John Muir.

Those of us lucky enough to live in the Georgian Triangle are getting treated this week to an utterly spectacular display of summer. As the province begins to open up to Phase 3, the tendency is to rush back to business as usual as quickly as we can, and to forget the progress we’ve made (albeit forced upon us) by months of staying at home and occupying ourselves.

The natural beauty of this area is unmatched. So is the diversity. Within a few minutes, we can go from seaside, to mountainside, to forest. Year round, we are blessed with amazing views and a plethora of options to get out in nature however it suits us.

We have so many options for local foods and drinks, all produced right in our own backyard. Our farmers and growers are putting in long hours to provide us with fresh, seasonal items, picked within hours of eating.

This week, we’re going to give you a challenge to NOT do anything. No research. No documentaries. No calling MPs. If you need it, consider it a free pass on yard work, and a way to put your feet up and be amazed at what you see.

Challenge 13a: Find a moment to be awed by nature this week.

We don’t mean just go for a run in the woods. When being in nature is a means to an end, we miss the point. We want you to really see what’s out there. Turn off your music, and silence your phone. Look at the forest, the trees. Look at the diversity. Consider the incredible journey from being a tiny seed to a huge tree. Smell the earth and the leaves. Listen to the birds, and to the quietness of life going on in harmony with itself. Or visit the Bay, and watch the waves. Watch the stars. Connect with your senses. Quiet your busy mind. Be present.

There are hundreds of ways to do this, so pick one that appeals to you most. You don’t need money. You don’t need much of anything, except two feet, maybe some binoculars, and a little curiosity.

Children already have the innate ability to be awed by nature. Anyone who’s ever gone for a walk with a toddler knows that every object is a treasure worth examining and exploring. Follow your child’s lead. Find the beauty in those treasures. See through their eyes, and rediscover what you’ve forgotten. There is a magical calm that happens when we really tune in.
 

Challenge 13b: Naturalize your yard.

While you’re taking in nature, maybe consider that expansive lawn you have. How much time and energy goes into manicuring it? Let’s take a little break from that. If you own property is there some part that you can naturalize? Just leave it alone, and let it restore its natural balance. You’ll end up with wildflowers and tall grasses. You can even sprinkle some wildflower seeds and see what comes up. Naturalizing creates a habitat for birds, butterflies, insects and wildlife. It supports pollinators, who desperately need some refuge. In the winter, it provides much needed food and shelter for creatures. It helps sequester carbon, saves water, and encourages natural diversity. You can even add shelters, like bricks, or buy bird feeders, bat houses and bird houses to encourage beneficial visitors. If you have children, let them be part of this process. They will have terrific ideas about how it should be!

Just like most of our tips, you’ll save money and time along with restoring balance. It will buy you back a few hours a week to be awed by nature, right in your own backyard!

e.e. Cummings said, “the eyes of my eyes are opened”. So, venture out this week, and open your eyes. Once we see, we can’t unsee. And seeing leads to awareness, which leads to change. You’ll see what we’re all fighting to protect, and just how awesome it really 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, 8 July 2020

Week 12: Keep Your Cool!

A few years ago, my family was lucky enough to do an year-long exchange in Australia. We left Toronto in mid-winter, when the temperature was -25c. Thirty six hours later, we arrived in Brisbane in mid-summer, to a sweltering 36 degrees, and near 100% humidity. Despite the heat, we were surprised to discover our house didn’t have any air conditioning. Nor did most residences. The school didn’t have any either. If we’d had the option, the A/C would definitely have been on. But, without it, we had to find solutions. We spent a lot of time at the beach. We stood in front of the fan a LOT! Closed our house up tight in the day, and opened it for a little breeze in the evening. Don’t get me wrong. It was hot. More than hot. Some days, unbearably hot. These past few days here at home have been Australia hot. And when we’re not used to such intensity, out of habit we turn to simple ways to get relief. We turn on the air conditioner.

There’s an interesting article that Laurel found in The Guardian, called The Air Conditioning Trap: How Cold Air is Heating the World. It talks about how much energy is required to run air conditioners. Did you know that one small room air conditioner uses as much energy as four fridges? And a central air unit uses as much as 15 fridges? In a heat wave, at least 50% of energy consumption goes to air conditioning.

There is a vicious circle at play: the warmer our climate gets, the more we use air conditioning to mitigate it, which uses more energy, creating more greenhouse gases, which makes our climate warmer…you get the picture.

This morning, it is 29c, and it’s 8:30am. The temperatures today will reach 33, and tomorrow will be even higher. With the humidex, we’re hitting mid-40s. Heat warnings abound this week. So, we’re not going to tell you NOT to use your air conditioning, but, we’re going to ask you to consider where you could maybe rethink your A/C habits, and you can decide for yourself what’s doable for you.

The problem with A/C is that it disconnects us from what’s actually going on outside. You may not even realize opening your windows would have the same effect. How many of us work in offices where we need a sweater, while outdoors it’s so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk? It’s nonsensical, and wasteful. So, as usual, we’re going to ask you to tune in to what’s going on around you, so you are acting with intention, not out of habit. We’re not asking you to make your life uncomfortable. Just how to make your choices more conscious.
 

Challenge 12: Adapt how you use the air conditioner, and work to avoid it altogether where possible.

At home, keep your windows closed and the blinds down or curtains drawn to prevent heat from entering your house during the hottest part of the day. Be conscientious about keeping outside doors closed, just like you would in the winter. You may be surprised how well this works. It may even work well enough to avoid needing the A/C.

In the evening, take a look at the overnight weather forecast. If the humidity is low and the temperature is expected to drop below your set house temperature, turn off the A/C and open all your windows. Example: Look for a temperature of say 20 that “Feels Like” 20 or less.

Where you can, put on external blinds or use curtains on your windows to keep your house cooler this summer. Invest in thermal drapes (good) or add exterior blinds, like Coolaroo (better). Or add exterior blinds and plan to upgrade your home’s insulation/windows (best).

Consider how cool is cool enough. If your house is colder in the summer than it is warmer in the winter, you could balance that out. For example, if you keep your house at 22 in the winter, but you’re cooling it to 18 in the summer, does that make sense?

Don’t underestimate the power of a good fan. Properly situated fans can draw hot air out of a room, and ceiling fans can draw cold air up from the floor so it can circulate.

You can also affect changes at work. Ask if the temperature can be raised a few degrees, instead of consistently sub-Arctic. See if the A/C can be turned off on days where it’s under, say, 25 degrees outside.

We do have options beyond just flipping the A/C switch and carrying on as if life is one long climate-controlled season. If you’re inside on a hot day and you feel like you need long sleeves, your A/C is too cold. If your glasses fog up when you go outside, your A/C is too cold. If it takes you 10 minutes to warm up, your A/C is too cold. So stay in touch with what’s really going on around you, and respond accordingly. Stay cool folks, and enjoy the dog days of summer! All too soon we’ll be shovelling!

Note: Thanks to gardener-extraordinaire Helen, for the tip from last week’s article: if you’re planting trees, make sure you give them lots of water so they thrive in this heat!
Yours in sustainability,
Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Week 11: The Maple Leaf Forever

The proud maple leaf flies over our country as a national symbol recognized around the world. It symbolizes that Canada is clean, filled with natural beauty, and, well, maple trees! Trees not only provide shade, shelter and beauty to our surroundings. They clean our air. They filter our water. They provide homes for millions of species. Trees are a big part of mitigating climate change. A mature tree sequesters 48 pounds of CO2 every year. Globally, forests absorb and can store as much as 30 per cent of carbon emissions from human activities. They remove pollutants, like carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulates, which keeps our lungs, and our atmosphere cleaner.  

Trees also store carbon internally in their leaves, trunks and roots. When we cut down a tree, it has a doubly negative effect. The stored carbon is released, and it no longer can absorb carbon dioxide. Imagine what is happening as swaths of old growth forests around the world are being destroyed.

Deforestation also has a damaging effect on agriculture. Without roots to anchor the soil, and more exposure to sunlight, soil can dry out. Lack of trees also leads to soil erosion, and susceptibility to flooding.

Here are some sobering facts, from onetreeplanted.org: 

  • 80,000 acres of forests disappear from the earth every day.
  • Every 1.2 seconds, we lose an area of forest the size of a football field.
  • 46% of the world’s forests are already destroyed.
  • Tropical forest destruction accounts for 20% of the current GHG emissions.
So this week, our challenge is to reverse that trend!

Challenge 11: Plant a tree! 


And, if you have space, plant lots of trees! Maybe commit to planting a certain number per year, and reforesting unused portions of your land. 

There are government incentive programs to help you. See if you qualify for the 50 million tree program through Forests Ontario. If you have 10 acres of land available, you can become a managed forest, and get a tax break. There are also subsidies available for smaller scale planting, through Forest Ontario.

If you have no space, sign up to help your community plant trees, or donate to help someone else plant trees.

There are lots of organizations who will do this for you. Here’s a few:

  • Onetreeplanted.org: one dollar, one tree planted. Or start your own fundraiser.
  • Treecanada.ca: $5 per sapling planted.
  • The Nature Conservancy, Plant a Billion Trees initiative.
  • Tentree.ca: offers sustainably-made products/clothing, and will plant 10 trees with your purchase. To date, they’ve planted over 43 million trees.

Even if you have no outdoor space, add some potted plants to your home, or balcony. Even house plants can improve your air quality, and sequester carbon at the same time.

You may think that a few trees isn’t going to make that much difference. But, studies show that planting one trillion trees worldwide would potentially reduce greenhouse gases by two-thirds. The same analysis showed that there are 1.7 billion hectares of treeless land which would support 1.2 trillion saplings. They excluded farmland, and urban centres in their calculations. Planting trees would be one of the simplest, and cheapest ways to seriously address carbon emissions (and yes, of course, we also must stop putting so much carbon into the atmosphere in the first place!).

Remember that this same earth was once covered in toxic gases, and they were cleared away with the help of algae, which evolved into land plants, and then trees. And that paved the way for insects, animals and then humans. So, don’t underestimate trees and plants in the climate change battle. Forests are the lungs of our planet. So let’s get planting! And have a Happy Canada Day!


Yours in sustainability,
Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood

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...