Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Week 24: Get Around All Over Town

 

Week 24:

Get Around All Over Town

This week, we’re continuing our journey into alternative transportation! We’re going to look at possibilities for walking, biking or carpooling to more places. Maybe even places we never considered before. Laurel came up with a great strategy for rethinking our driving habits. 

Challenge 24: Set an active transportation or carpooling goal.

We’ve got a few options for you this week, depending on where you live. 

If you live in or near a town, make yourself a deal. You set the parameters. For example, “if walking or biking would take me less than 10-15 minutes, then I’ll leave the car at home.” You can use Google Maps to plan your route, and see how long it will take you to walk or bike. It will help you decide whether or not the car leaves the driveway.

Stick to it for a week (good); continue for the next six weeks, to make it a habit (better); never go back to using the car for short trips (best).

If you live outside of a town where walking or biking is unrealistic, set a carpooling goal, like,  “I will carpool one day each week”. Find carpool buddies who have the same schedule as you do.

If you are in a subdivision without a bus, call your town this week and see if you can get on a bus route. Remember, buses will be electric and emissions free in the future. 

This week is short and sweet! Let us know how you did! Hopefully you can shift some of your thinking about how you get 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, 23 September 2020

 

Week 23:

Walking on Sunshine

Fall arrived yesterday at 9:30 am, but you wouldn’t know it from the weather. It has been a spectacularly warm, sunny, pleasant week. And it’s expected to continue until the weekend. It lined up perfectly with the challenges over the past few weeks - to choose alternative transportation! So, grab your coat and get your hat. Leave your worries on the doorstep. Just direct your feet … to the sunny side of the street! This week, we’re leaving the car at home!

As I’m sure you know, cars are terrible for the environment. Even before you put one drop of gas in them, the manufacturing process has a terrible environmental impact. Consider all those man-made materials - steel, glass, paint, rubber, plastic - that make up your vehicle. You haven’t even driven it yet and already its carbon footprint is pretty big. Once you hit the open road, you’re contributing significantly to air pollution and greenhouse gases. I won’t bore you with more statistics - you’ve seen the numbers. But consider what happens at the end of a car’s life. Where does it go? Back into the manufacturing process, using more energy, and creating more pollution. 

Challenge 23: Find alternate transportation.

 
Plan to Carpool (good), Bus (better), Walk/bike (best) to one event this week and leave your vehicle at home.

Last week, we looked at places in our schedule where we might be able to change it up. Instead of automatically jumping in the car, did you manage to find places you could get to without driving? Yesterday on car-free day, did you ditch the car and find a different way to get where you needed to? Can you keep it going? Can you make it a habit?

Public transportation is not what it used to be. It’s constantly improving to make it more user friendly. Arguably, there is a lot to be desired for some of us who live rurally. Simcoe County has a public transportation app which we’ve discussed in previous challenges, so that helps figure out where your bus is, and how long your wait may be. But there are really innovative initiatives out there that could change the whole game. 

Belleville has a pilot project for transportation, where you can see the bus routes in real time, and redirect a bus to where you are, instead of waiting at an established bus stop. It has increased their ridership significantly, and they are expanding the project. It basically turns their public buses into on-demand buses. It’s a smarter, more user-friendly system that has had tremendous success. The system uses the Pantomonium app, developed in Toronto, and Pantomonium wants to expand across Canada to help our national transportation grid become more user-friendly. The cost didn’t go up - your regular fare still applies. Even if you need a ride in a remote area at midnight, the app still finds you a seat on the nearest bus, and redirects it to you, letting you know in real time when it will arrive. Smart.

Rethinking transportation can be tricky, especially in communities without reliable options. But, there are ways we can shake it up a bit. If you have kids, consider the amount of time you spend driving to and from places. Can you compile your trips so you’re only driving once or twice instead of daily? Can you run more errands or plan your own appointments for the same times? Can you share the driving with another family? Can you find options closer to home that meet the same need? 

If you’re part of a group that meets regularly, can you share driving or change the location so it’s easier for people to get to car-free?

There are lots of options that are eco-friendly, and a shiny new bike may be your best friend. They’re relatively inexpensive, easy to use, good for the environment and good for you. You don’t need a licence, insurance, or a parking permit, and they hardly need much maintenance. All you’ll need is a helmet and a bike lock to get just about anywhere you need to go. 

If you need a little more oomphf to get you where you’re going, consider an e-bike. They have the same benefits as a traditional bike, with a little extra help when you need it.  They can travel at speeds between 25 and 45 kph using a rechargeable battery. You can go farther distances on your bike than perhaps you normally would consider on a regular bike, so maybe it’s an option that fits for you.

If you’re in the market for a new car, consider an electric vehicle, or a hybrid. They’ve come a long way in the past 10 years, and now you can get a good-sized EV that can travel 400-500 km on a charge. The prices are also becoming more reasonable, and without so many moving parts, repairs and maintenance are significantly cheaper. Technology has improved so you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the options that are available.

Motorcycles can also be a compromise. It’s not exactly a green choice, but we’re talking about doable changes that have an impact. If it’s a choice between driving alone in a pick up truck/SUV or on a motorcycle, you’ll be better off on a bike. On average, you can go 100kms on 2.5L of gas, compared to about 9L in a car, and 12L in an SUV. You’re still burning carbon, and you’re still polluting. But, if it’s the better option, consider it.

Then of course there’s your good ol’ feet. If you’re healthy, and you live in town, walking should be a no-brainer. As we’ve discussed, we made daily exercise another thing on our to do list instead of considering it part of how we function in our day. So, instead of hitting the gym and walking on a treadmill, or going for a run after work, maybe walk (or run) to or from work. 

Get your kids to walk to school instead of taking the bus. Did you know in the 1970s, 41% of kids walked or biked to school? Now it’s 13%. And, 89% of kids in 1970 walked/biked if they lived within 2 kms of school. Now it’s 35%. Walking teaches kids to be independent, and self-sufficient. And just like for adults, it’s good for them. It gives them fresh air and exercise, builds confidence and is great for mental health too. 

So, while the sun is shining and before the snow flies, leave the car in the garage and get yourself some fresh air. You’ll feel better. You’ll be healthier. You’ll have a rosy glow and a sunny disposition. Direct your feet to the sunny side of the street!

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, 16 September 2020

Week 22: Car Free, Care Free

 

Week 22:

Car Free, Care Free

Transportation as it is right now, is a pretty big problem in the carbon footprint arena. In 2018, 25% of Canada’s gHg emissions were from transportation. From 1990 to 2018, emissions from transportation rose by 53%. That doesn’t just include passenger vehicles. It includes freight as well. With the boom in online delivery this year, you know those numbers are going to be even higher for 2020. It’s clear that we need better options when it comes to transportation, especially here in rural communities, where our public transportation system leaves a whole lot to be desired.

Next week, September 22nd is World Car Free Day. It’s been happening for almost 30 years, but my bet is that most of us have never even heard mention of it. So, Laurel and I decided this year we’d give it a boost, and add it to our challenges this week.

Car Free Day is a global initiative. Just like Earth Hour, which asks us to turn off our lights for an hour, once a year, Car Free Day asks motorists to give up their vehicle just for one day. The point is to highlight all the benefits of going car-free, like obviously, better air quality. But there are even more benefits to leaving the car at home, and opting for other transportation methods.

One of the benefits is to demonstrate what cities and towns might look like with little to no traffic. In Europe, it’s common for there to be pedestrian zones, all year round, where no cars at all are permitted. There you’ll find cafes spilling out into “roadways”, and a quieter, calmer, more conversation-conducive atmosphere. 

Studies have shown that neighbourhoods that are walkable also benefit economically. When people are walking or biking instead of whizzing by in a car, they see more. They stop and look at windows more. They buy more. They stop for snacks or drinks more. Take a look at our local farmers’ markets. They’re a social experiment success story. People don’t drive through the markets. They walk. Mostly, they stroll. They stop and talk to vendors. They buy things they may not have planned to pick up that day. It doesn’t have to be just once a week, in the summer. It could be a real, viable economic strategy that benefits our local businesses.

Challenge 22: Leave the car at home.

Plan ahead. Take a look at next week’s schedule. Where would you normally drive? Is there one event that you could get to without your car? Carpool (good), bus (better), Walk/bike (best).

Not all of us live in communities where you can easily get places without a vehicle. I for one can’t get anywhere without a car, unless I’d like to risk my life on the shoulder of a busy roadway walking 6 km to the nearest village. 

We are challenged with the limited options available. Seriously tackling the climate footprint of transportation requires infrastructure investment in passenger rail, buses, and readily available charging stations for electric vehicles. It also has to be convenient, and timely. Taking two hours to get somewhere you could drive to in 15 minutes isn’t an incentive for people. It has to be not only an ethical choice, but a logical, viable choice. We need better options. Until our governments make some serious contributions, we’ll have to do the heavy lifting ourselves.

But, there are strategies we can all use, regardless of where we live, in order to ditch the car more often, and especially on September 22nd. See if you can summon up some creative energy and choose a different path. You may find that you actually prefer riding your bike to work on a sunny fall day rather than driving. Maybe you can put your shiny new Zoom skills to work and meet virtually instead of in person. Maybe you can hop a ride with a friend who’s going in the same direction. If you’re having a group meeting, find out who’s willing to carpool and where they’re coming from. Add it to the invitation so people can connect. Perhaps you discover it doesn’t take as long to walk somewhere as you thought it might.   

As always, we’re asking you to rethink something that is a habit, and see if there’s a way you can make adjustments that are in the planet’s better interests, as well as your own. After all, walking or biking is some pretty exceptional cardio activity. 

If you need an extra incentive, the Collingwood Climate Action Team is launching a contest. As an added bonus,  if you write about your day - the good and the bad - and tell CCAT what could make it even better, CCAT will put your name in a draw for a $50 gift certificate from Bad Vegan.

To enter the draw, share with CCAT through email,  facebookinstagram  or Twitter.

52 Weeks gives you the thumbs up to skip the gym if you walk/bike to work on the 22nd! And, you may even get a free lunch from Bad Vegan, courtesy of CCAT. Healthy planet, healthy people. Happy car free day!

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, 9 September 2020

Week 21: Idle Talk

 

Week 21:

Idle Talk

Whoever invented the drive-thru? Back in the day when we started commuting longer distances, someone came up with the bright idea that it would be better to sit in your car while someone handed you a hot beverage, rather than tax yourself by walking a few feet to collect said hot beverage from inside an establishment. After all, most of us are busy and important. We can’t be bothered with trivial things like parking our cars, then walking, especially whilst holding a cup, and returning to our vehicles. It’s almost inhuman.

I realize that the convenience of drive-thrus is often hard to resist. Especially if you have a carful of children who require buckling in and unbuckling, and rebuckling. It’s time-consuming. But, if you haven’t already, then consider this. All the while you are standing in line waiting, you are now sitting in line waiting. And, I’ll bet that you and all the other vehicles waiting are idling. That’s where the problem begins.

Idling is terrible for the environment. It contributes to air pollution, with high levels of criteria air contaminants (CACs) like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, and high levels of carbon dioxide. 

Since these emissions are invisible, it’s hard to get a grasp on their true effect. If you want a disturbingly visual understanding of what these emissions look like, take a look at this video, which shows the carbon emissions from your tailpipe as chunks of charcoal. Mountains of carbon over the course of a year.

On average, Canadians idle their car between 5 and 10 minutes per day. Did you know that if every car idled for only three minutes less per day, it would reduce our CO2 emissions by 1.4 million tons annually? That’s the equivalent of saving 630 million litres of fuel, and taking 320,000 cars off the road for the entire year. 

It’s even worse for diesel vehicles. The University of Waterloo found that diesel buses lose four to eight litres of fuel per day to idling - up to 2,000 litres per year. That equals 10,000 kg of gHgs per bus, per year. Calculate that out at a reasonable $1 per litre, and it’ll cost $2,000 to idle each bus. That’s a lot of bang for your eco-buck. You can’t really help idling at stop lights, but you can stop idling other places. 

Challenge 21: Skip the Drive Thru!

Do not use a drive thru this week - take your own travel mug and go inside. One week (good), one month (better), never again (best).

Drive Thru restaurants result in increased waste, but more importantly, cause an increase in pollution from idling cars. The same goes for waiting in your car. We wait. A lot. While you’re waiting, turn off your engine. A good guideline is that after 10 seconds, it is better to turn off the engine on a gas car than to continue idling. 

Technology is looking into automatic shut-off vehicles, which turn off the car after a certain amount of time. Many municipalities around the world have anti-idling bylaws, varying from 10-60 seconds of wait time before requiring you to turn off that engine. But, we can do it ourselves, if we’re conscious of the damage we’re causing while we’re idling.

So the next time you’re driving to the city and think to yourself, “I could really go for a Timmy’s right now”, take a few minutes to park your car, walk inside, and grab that hot cuppa (in a travel mug!) instead of waiting in line at the drive thru. Do the planet a favour. Turn off your vehicle!

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, 2 September 2020

Week 20: Waste Not, Want Not!

 

Week 20:

Waste Not, Want Not

It’s an interesting question - how did we go from “waste not, want not” to “let’s make everything disposable to make our lives easier”? Ironic. Are our lives easier because we can throw away cling wrap? It doesn’t seem so. Most of us realize that it’s kind of a foolish endeavour to manufacture something with the direct intention of throwing it away. But still, old habits are hard to break. And along the way, we associated the convenience of disposability with progress and prosperity. Remember those old commercials with the tag line “clean up’s a breeze!”, showing a carefree person tossing something happily in the trash? It’s time to shift that perception. Being able to throw something away doesn’t mean we’re prosperous. It means we’re selfish.

Next week at this time, most students, teachers and those who love them will all be back to work/school. So, we figured it was a good time to talk about plastic, disposable products and why we should work to eliminate them.

Some people question why plastics and single-use items are a no-no. What good will rejecting a plastic straw do for the planet? Even if you just commit to eliminating, say, one straw, it still makes a difference. If 7.5 billion people reject a straw only one time, that’s 7.5 billion straws that aren’t floating in the ocean. Imagine what happens if we permanently replace them with something different!

Nearly all plastic, at least 99% of it, is made from fossil fuels. At least 40% of plastic manufactured is for single-use products, or for packaging. It is meant to be thrown away after one use. It’s nonsensical when you think about it. Grabbing a plastic bag to put your broccoli in, and then driving your broccoli home where you throw away the plastic bag. Then, that plastic bag lives on for centuries, while your broccoli is long gone after a few days. Does broccoli require this kind of special treatment? Wouldn’t broccoli be just as safe naked as it would be if shrouded in plastic for 15 minutes? I’ve heard the argument - “those belts at the store are dirty - I don’t want my food touching them.” Newsflash: your food has been handled multiple times, by multiple people since being picked. It doesn’t magically appear on your grocery shelf. If it hasn’t been wrapped since it left the field, the few minutes you put it in a plastic bag really doesn’t do anything. If it’s going to be contaminated, it’s already happened. Wash produce well, and store it in a dish towel, or glass container in your fridge. Those plastic bags actually suffocate your produce, making it rot faster.

Plastic contributes to global warming at every stage of its production. From the initial extraction, to refining, to extrusion, to transportation, to waste management. Estimates are that 6 kg of CO2 is produced for every 1 kg of plastic. In essence, it’s bad news for the planet. Single-use plastic is very difficult and expensive to recycle, meaning that it is cheaper for companies to use new plastic than it is to use recycled plastic. And because it’s so cheap and widely available, it’s used for everything, and it’s almost impossible to avoid it.

Beyond the carbon conversation, plastic is a disaster for our ecosystems, and for our health too. 

Because plastic is lightweight, it is easily carried on the wind, and often ends up in the water, making its way to the ocean, where huge plastic islands exist, some as large as Texas.

Since 1950, humans have produced over 8 billion tons of plastic, and less than 10% of it has been recycled. Plastic doesn’t ever biodegrade. Instead, it breaks down into bits of toxins, chemicals and microplastics. A plastic bottle takes an unbelievable 450 years to break down. Then, these toxic bits leach into our groundwater, our lakes and oceans, and our soil. Animals eat them, or, become ensnared in them. Fish consume thousands of tons of plastics annually. Then, we eat those fish. You get the picture. What we do to the planet, we do to ourselves.

Challenge 20: Leave reusable cups, dishes, serviettes and cutlery at work for greener lunches!

If you haven’t attempted to remove single-use plastics from your life, it’s not the easiest task in the world. When you’re looking for alternatives for everyday products, it can be frustrating to find an ecological alternative. Compound that by the thousands of products that we consume daily that are made from, or packaged in plastic. Luckily, alternative products are making their way into the mainstream, and the extra push from consumers is fuelling changes in the packaging industry. And, while we’re waiting for the world to change, there are things we can do to make a difference.

There are many alternatives to disposable stuff. First, skip take out, unless you know compostable materials are being used. Don’t be fooled by a “compostable” sticker on your package - many of these materials are not readily compostable without industrial equipment, and end up in landfill anyway. The same goes for “recyclable”; that’s often just a theory, and if you don’t follow recycling rules properly, they’re bound for landfill too! If eating out, you are much better off to bring your own containers, and ask them to be filled, though right now, that can be a challenge too. 

Commit to bringing your lunch and favourite beverage along to work. Deck yourself out with some quality products that are durable and long-lasting. Take a ceramic or stainless steel mug for your hot drinks. A glass works just as well as a plastic cup. Stainless steel straws are everywhere now. Serviettes replace disposable napkins. Keep a pouch of cutlery handy and take your lunch in glass containers with snap on lids. Your dusty old thermos will be thrilled to see you again! If you’re stuck, there are a multitude of bamboo and hemp products available, which act just like plastic, but are more sustainable.

It doesn’t have to be expensive. Even a mason jar with a screw top can replace a plastic water bottle. My favourite thing is mason jar lunches. There are tons of mason jar meal ideas out there. Tasty, convenient, and sustainable. You can even reheat them in the oven, or microwave (without the metal lid of course!). Food lasts longer when stored in mason jars than in plastic tubs, so you can make a few ahead of time to grab and go breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Even dessert is easy. When it’s time for lunch, just scoop it into a regular dish, or eat it straight from the jar. While you’re at it, don’t forget to do the same for your kids’ lunch boxes. The layered jars are appetite-inspiring, and are only limited by your imagination. 

And it goes without saying, take your own bags and bins to the store so you can avoid using plastic bags. Plastic is really just fossil fuel in a different form. If you’re feeling that it’s just too much bother, or the problem is too insurmountable for you to make a difference, you’re wrong. Just try a few simple steps, which can become a regular habit. We got used to bringing our own bags when we shop. Most plastic straws are now replaced by paper. That happened pretty fast. So, jump on board the sustainability train and see where your mason jar lunches take you. Happy back to school everyone!

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.

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...