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.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Week 25: Trim Your Waste Line

 

Week 25:

Trim Your Waste Line

Thanksgiving is a whole other level of crazy this year. Where normally you may be running around, sourcing giant turkeys and peeling potatoes, we’ve been asked to pare down, and celebrate the holiday differently. Instead of 20 people around your table, there may only be a handful. That in itself may change what your foodprint looks like this holiday.

Since you’ll be shopping this week, we wanted to talk about food waste. We’ve mentioned it before in past challenges, but while we’re heading into the holiday season, thinking about how much we buy and what happens to it afterward is on our radar.

Challenge 25 &Thanksgiving week: Try and create zero food waste. Make soup or stew. Freeze leftovers. Buy less.

It’s a strange reality that over half of the food we produce gets thrown away. Second Harvest, a food security agency in Toronto, reported that food lost or wasted is in excess of 35.5 million tonnes annually. And, at least 33% of that could be salvaged, and sent to communities in need nationwide. That cost to Canadians is over $49 billion annually. Don’t even get me started on how many Canadians (especially children) go hungry every day due to food insecurity.

It all has an environmental impact, if you think about how food gets to your refrigerator, and then, if you don’t consume it, ends up in our landfill. All the energy taken to pick, wash, trim, pack, ship, and deliver that food is wasted. So, every time you toss those pathetic stalks of rubbery celery in the bin, you’re compounding the problem.

Part of the problem is our perception of what’s “edible”. We’re pretty spoiled in the way we look at food. If it’s not perfect, we don’t buy it. Retailers know it. So, any produce that doesn’t meet a stringent standard doesn’t even get to the shelf. That’s ridiculous. An ugly carrot tastes just as good as a perfectly straight one. 

Another issue is “best before” dates. Those are marketing strategies. They’re not real. Best before doesn’t indicate whether something is safe to eat or not. It was designed by companies to make you throw things out by a certain date, and buy new ones. It’s a sham. Does your cottage cheese suddenly become toxic the next day? No it does not. Unfortunately, we’ve taken the bait, so grocers often throw away food that is close to its “best before” date, because they know you won’t buy them. So, take a risk. Trust your common sense before a date stamp.

There’s some food waste that’s inevitable - tea bags, coffee grounds, bones, peels, shells. But it’s all compostable, whether in your own yard, or in our county facility. We’re talking about the other stuff.

It’s good to compost; but, it’s better not to waste food in the first place, because composting doesn’t negate the amount of energy it took to get that lettuce to your table. When you toss it, you contribute to burning that energy, for no reason.

Getting your food waste down can be a challenge. We’ve all got really bad habits. Ours is saving leftovers in the fridge, letting them expire, and then tossing them. We have good intentions to reuse them, but, somehow, they often don’t get revisited until it’s too late.

Here are some unpleasant statistics. 63% of the food Canadians waste could have been eaten. That’s more than 140 kgs of food per year, for the average family. To put it in perspective, that’s 470,000 heads of lettuce. 1.2 million tomatoes. 2.4 million potatoes. 750,000 loaves of bread… it’s a lot.

There’s a terrific website called “Love Food, Hate Waste”. It has tons of information on how to reduce your food waste. Here are a few of them. 

Use what you’ve got. Use up what’s in the fridge or cupboard already before unfreezing something, or opening a new package. Build your meal around what’s already there instead of running out for something else.

Plan it out. When you plan your meals, you’ll buy less. You’ll know what you need, and only shop for items you know you’re going to use. Check flyers online to see what's on sale, and build around it.

Plan how to use leftovers. From your Thanksgiving turkey, you can build many meals. Think turkey pot pie. Stew. Soup. Turkey tacos. 

Freeze things before they spoil, rather than letting them lurk in the dark corners of your fridge.

Schedule a lazy night: there are nights when you’d rather just order in. So, instead of buying food for that night, plan to have someone else cook for you.

Use up your veg on the edge: throw wilty celery or withered mushrooms into spaghetti sauce. Chili doesn’t care whether your peppers are shrivelled. Whole tomatoes can go in too. Old bananas get peeled and frozen for smoothies, or banana bread. 

Rethink old bread: French toast? Yup. Hunks of stale bread can be whirred in the food processor to become breadcrumbs, which you can store in your freezer. Toast stale crackers in the oven for a few minutes to crisp them up again.

So while you’re enjoying the bounty of Thanksgiving, remember these things: Shop lighter. Use up your leftovers. Donate to a foodbank. And be grateful for what you have.

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...