Newest tips on top, check in every Saturday morning for new tips. If you have an idea to reduce waste, treat the environment better, or reduce carbon footprint that works, send it to Info@sustainableorillia.ca with the subject line: I've Got A Tip.
MORE WAYS TO SAVE MONEY AND ENERGY AT HOME
A recent Tip of the Week was about actions you can take personally to reduce your housing emissions, with a focus on the easiest and least expensive things to do to reduce energy use. This Tip is going to raise the ante a bit. Again, we’re going to rely on BF Nagy’s The Clean Energy Age, a source of information we’ve recommended in other Tips and recommend again.
Today’s Tip explores retrofits that may cost you more than the ones recommended earlier, but will also give you the most energy cost savings over the long term, as well as reducing household emissions. They are well worth doing even if the initial outlay is more. In some cases, if you finance the costs of the retrofit, the loan can be paid back with the energy cost savings generated by the changes you’ve made.
- Focus first on optimizing the building envelope – ceilings, walls, windows and doors. To quote from Nagy’s book, “If you do nothing else this year, at least add as much insulation as you can, plus double- or triple-pane windows. Seal the cracks in your building envelope and eliminate thermal bridges [areas where heat can escape through studs or other uninsulated connectors].” These can be comparatively expensive retrofits to make, especially the window replacements. The good news is the Canadian government is offering subsidies to encourage these actions. To qualify, one must first have an Energy Audit done, followed by a similar Audit after the work is done. The government will subsidize the cost of the audits with a $600 subsidy. In addition, depending on the degree of work done, homeowners and businesses can qualify for up to $5,000 in a subsidy for the work done. To see program details, go to the Natural Resources Canada website.
- Switch to clean, efficient heating and cooling. After retrofitting the building’s envelope – and only after – find a heating and cooling technician who, in Nagy’s words, “knows about your envelope improvements.” Finding the right person is important simply because, according to Nagy, “he or she has to calculate the new equipment capacities correctly. If the envelope is done right… you will be able to choose efficient, variable-speed mini-splits, multi-splits, heat pumps, modern hot-water radiators, and tankless water heaters.” Nagy also cautions some technicians are still recommending natural gas, but points out you will have “a healthier, more comfortable, cleaner, and less expensive heating and cooling system if you choose electricity and/or modern water heating over natural gas or oil.” He concludes, “Ask about heat pumps and be persistent.”
- Save by recovering wasted building energy. A heat recovery ventilator or energy recovery ventilator minimizes energy waste and ensures healthy indoor air – a necessity in a house with a tight building envelope. Appropriate ventilation ensures air quality and proper levels of humidity, preventing mold. Nagy recommends adding this feature when buying your heating and cooling equipment simply because “the saved energy should be part of the technician’s equipment size calculations.”
- Install geothermal or solar thermal and solar photovoltaic panels. Nagy endorses geothermal as “very efficient and the most luxurious kind of heating and cooling,” while, “solar thermal panels do preheating for domestic hot-water, pool, and or hydronic space heating.” He cautions, “Get several quotes and check references.” The federal NRCan rebate program referenced above includes a subsidy for solar panels which provide electricity, but don’t appear to include geothermal or solar thermal installations. Installers should know what rebates are available for retrofit work, so be sure to engage them in the conversation. If they don’t appear to know this information, perhaps they are the wrong people to hire.
Installers may offer financing, as well, or know how you can arrange it. Nagy suggests, “Ask your installer to calculate your monthly electricity savings and try to structure your finance payments so that you are breaking even from day one.”
Again, he cautions homeowners to “make sure these companies have experience with he technology they are selling and financing… ask questions and expect clear answers.” Some of the technology described in his book – while not exactly new (his book was written in 2018) – is still new enough that some heating and cooling businesses may not be completely familiar with it. If you are planning to spend money for a retrofit to reduce your energy use, you want to ensure that it is money well spent. As he says elsewhere get several quotes and check references.
Taking steps like this not only reduces your share of harmful emissions, but also ends up saving money. Electricity costs are a substantial part of most household expenses. Reducing use of electricity in the ways listed above is a win-win strategy – better for the environment and better for your wallet. And while natural gas may currently appear to be cheaper, or as cheap, its future costs as a fossil fuel are unpredictable. Green electricity is the fuel of the future.
PLAN TO SAVE MONEY AND ENERGY
Here a few things you can do to reduce your housing emissions. Canadian carbon emissions per capita come in among the highest in the world. Individually, Canadians use almost twice as much energy as citizens of China and ten times as much as citizens of many African countries. While there are reasons for this situation, our vast distances and cold climate being most often cited, there are still dozens of ways for each of us to reduce our personal footprints, especially in our housing and transportation.
Today’s focus is on the easiest and least expensive things we can do to reduce energy use in our houses and apartments as provided by B.F. Nagy in his book, The Clean Energy Age, a source of information we’ve recommended in earlier articles and recommend again.
- Choose modern low-flow plumbing. Low-flow faucets and showerheads reduce your water usage and the electricity needed to produce hot water since you’re using less of it.
- Add drain water heat recovery to your shower pipe. This drain heat recovery can recover about 60% of the water heat energy in an average house. The heat energy from the outgoing shower water or warm wastewater from your clothes washer is transferred to incoming water. A simple device, once installed, it works for decades.
- Replace old lighting with LED lighting. Experts say that one of the best investments you can make is to modernize lighting. Paybacks are about one to four years. Saveonenergy.ca also provides information on smart plugs and receptacles, smart switches and smart bulbs and with many other energy-saving tips.
- Use power strips. Many appliances, especially computers and entertainment equipment, use power even when not in use (often referred to as phantom power). In some new-build modern homes you can have a single, manual, kill switch near the door which cuts power on everything except a few essential items like the fridge, freezer, heating and cooling.
- If you can, replace old, inefficient appliances with Energy Star models. Clothes dryers, water heaters, refrigerators, freezers and older-style air-conditioning consume a surprising amount of power. Energy Star is an international efficiency standard for consumer products, though some products may be efficient even without this label.
- Buy a programmable thermostat
- Clean your refrigerator coils 2-3 times a year
- Use cold water for laundry (cold water washing is easier on your clothing’s colours)
- Add weather stripping to doors and windows and add insulation to your attic space.
As we’ve noted in other Tips, taking steps like this not only reduces your share of harmful emissions, but also ends up saving money. Electricity costs are a substantial part of most households’ expenses. Reducing use of electricity in the ways listed above is a win-win strategy – better for the environment and better for your wallet.
While it’s important for citizens of Orillia and elsewhere to reduce their personal emissions, their carbon footprint, the most important thing we can do is demand that our governments act to force industry and corporations to take serious action to reduce the emissions resulting from their activities. For example, governments around the world must stop subsidizing fossil fuel companies and put the money instead into development of green energy.
A recent report by the government funded Trottier Energy Institute, as reported in the Globe and Mail, said, “to reach net zero, Ottawa needs to focus its efforts on industry, energy providers and the private sector in general.” The way Canada’s economy is structured and the way domestic emissions are counted, less than 20 per cent of greenhouse emissions are attributable to citizens’ direct choices, mostly around vehicles and home heating.
Can industry and the corporate world make these changes? Absolutely. For example, the technology now exists to make cement/concrete and steel with much-reduced emissions. Another example? Around the world and right here in Orillia passive houses requiring little energy to heat or cool are being built. These technologies will only improve as the drive to reduce carbon emissions gains momentum in the next few years.
So the most important thing all of us can do as individuals is to engage in political action, not just during an election, but every week, even several days a week. Join the Sustainable Orillia movement here in our community. Pick up the phone or write a letter to your MP and MPP. Send an email to the Prime Minister or the Premier of Ontario. Sign an online petition (Environmental Defence has aggregated a number of petitions here). Don’t let our elected representatives put this issue aside. Don’t let them think they can ignore the necessary actions and still be re-elected next time around. Be clear you will not vote for a politician or candidate who doesn’t see climate action as her/his first priority.
TOP 10 REASONS TO HAVE CLIMATE HOPE
A recent article in the David Suzuki Foundation’s newsletter, Finding Solutions, presented a positive message for its readers, which Sustainable Orillia would like to pass on to our readers and supporters. The full text of the article is reproduced below.
“Canada’s progress on climate change continues to be dangerously slow. We don’t have an ambitious target. Canada is the only G7 country whose emissions are accelerating. We continue to invest in expanding oil and gas infrastructure.
But there are good reasons to hope Canada can get on track to do its fair share to prevent climate catastrophe:
1. The cost of renewable energy is plummeting and available to more people. Solar power is now the cheapest source of electricity in history.
2. People in Canada are speaking up. A vast majority are concerned and want action.
3. The international youth-led climate movement is not backing down. Canada’s young leaders are innovating ways to fight for their future.
4. The Supreme Court affirmed that climate change is an emergency.
5. Indigenous communities are leading on the transition to renewables in creative, culturally appropriate ways and on the protection of traditional territories from fossil fuel expansion.
6. Canada strengthened and funded its climate plan. It makes polluters pay, supports clean tech development and brings in cleaner transportation and fuel standards.
7. Cities and towns are leading the way by encouraging building retrofits and energy efficiency, enabling electric vehicle charging and active transportation, and introducing road pricing and carbon budgets.
8. The U.S. is normalizing bold action. Goals and policies once seen as radical are part of the current administration’s commitments.
9. Climate action creates millions of jobs. For every job lost in fossil fuels over the past six years, the Canadian economy created 42 new ones.
10. Climate action is addressing systemic causes and interconnected injustices. Historically marginalized people contribute the least to the problem but suffer the most.
Sustainable Orillia is proud to support the David Suzuki Foundation by asking readers to petition political leaders and join the call for “urgent, bold, and ambitious climate action.” Our political leaders—federal, provincial and municipal—have delayed the needed response for far too long. Action is needed now.
I only sent my children to school with fabulous, healthy lunches they love. I was still making their lunches when they were in their teens. The truth of the matter is there was a huge divide between what my picky eaters would consume and what at the time I deemed to be healthy.
Fast forward several years. I now have three children in their 20s who are amazing eaters and excellent cooks. So for those of you who, like me, were worried that their children would not grow big and strong, take heart; the answer to healthy eating did not lie in finding the biggest box of organic granola bars, the low fat cookies or the whole wheat bagels. We found it at the markets, at the farms and at the garden plots of the growers and ranchers that have become our friends and heroes.
While this may sound a tad dramatic, it was true for us. As of 2006 my husband and I started taking our children with us to shop for food at the farmers’ markets every Saturday year round, and we quickly moved away from processed foods and most grocery store goods. Every season brought new local foods, and our children learned when to eat it at its freshest and how to prepare it from frozen during the winter months. Engaging our children in what we considered to be the real food revolution helped our family to prepare food we all loved.
So, back to school lunches. You know your children better than I do and chances are no amount of lists of healthy snack and lunch ideas is going to satisfy your needs or theirs. My simple advice is to buy what is fresh and – as a family – seek out growers who are at the farmers’ and fresh food markets or who offer Community Supported Agriculture Boxes. Enquire about farms that allow you to come and pick your own berries or beans or peas or tomatoes. You could even join our community garden in Orillia, or grow some of your own vegetables at home. Yes, it takes more time and yes, you will need to do more food preparation and perhaps consider buying another small freezer. However, as your children start to make personal connections with those who are growing their food and when they help to prepare it at home, they will be far more apt to eat it.
Then it goes into their lunch pails. With the exception of milk, you can find cheeses, eggs, fresh breads, leafy greens and vegetables, tubers, fruits, fresh and cured meats, and a myriad of other foods at the market stands or farm gates. Fresh produce can be cooked or eaten fresh. In the spring and fall it can be sliced or cubed and made into stews and soups for the winter months and sent to school in glass or metal containers. We made a habit of storing onions, potatoes, carrots and cabbages in the coolest spot in the house and buying extra peppers, eggplants, celery, tomatoes and even mushrooms in the fall to cut up and freeze for sauces, stews and chilis in the winter. If we had a roast chicken one night, our children knew they would be helping to make chicken soup from the stock and garden vegetables the next day after school.
The added bonus to all of this was hope. The farmers and growers that we supported gave us wonderful, organically grown food, also hope our community will continue to sustain us and others in the future. We just had to show up every Saturday to be a part of it.
This has been a very roundabout way of telling you how to make school lunches your children will love, but it is the only way that we were able to make it happen. Your children just need to learn to care about where their food comes from and until they are old enough to have learned that lesson, you need to care about it for them.
Tip by Allison Andrews
TREES CAN PUT MONEY IN YOUR POCKET
As outlined in previous weeks, the evidence is clear, ensuring a healthy tree canopy across a community or city is key to – improved health for citizens, reductions in certain types of crime, and, if the trees are on school properties, improved school achievement in young students.
What more can an increase in the number of trees in Orillia do for us? Well, how about providing a variety of economic benefits – higher property values, reduced energy costs for householders, cheaper remediation of brownfields, an increase in customers for local businesses, and more good jobs. In addition, the planting of trees is one of the most economical – read cheapest – ways of improving these economic benefits!
Trees can raise the average home’s value by more than $19,000 and save you $180 or more a year on your energy bill. A property with healthy, mature trees could easily sell in excess of 5% more than a house without. Slower growing trees like oak or maple provide more shade and last longer. In addition, properly located trees can reduce air conditioning needs by 30% and save 20% on heating costs. Plant conifers on the north and west sides of your home to block winter winds. Plant deciduous varieties on the south side of your lot to provide shade on hot summer days. But be careful. Good maintenance is required. Trees with dead branches and missing bark will actually decrease your home’s value.
Orillia, with a history of industrial activity, is no stranger to brownfield sites. Even the proposed waterfront development the City has just announced will require remediation of the site because of the former presence of train tracks in the area – with resulting contamination. The waterfront site, given the need for rapid remediation, will see the usual methods used to clean it up. However, if the City has identified other brownfield sites, the planting of trees on them should be considered.
Research shows over the long term, planting certain types of trees – for example willows, poplars and maples – will remove many contaminants from soil. This process is called phytoremediation. While clearly it won’t work in the short term for development projects, planting trees on identified brownfield sites that are unlikely to be developed in the short term has real economic benefits.
Traditional remediation methods often require soil to be removed for washing, burning, or chemical stabilization which drastically alters the landscape and disturbs local ecological systems. Phytoremediation can remove heavy metals, control erosion on the site, and by reducing dust blown by winds will reduce health risks to people living close to such sites. In addition, the cost of this process of remediation is 50% lower than traditional methods. However, as mentioned, trees and plants take time to absorb toxins, so they are not the most effective approach for rapid development projects.
Research from the U.S. has also shown that shoppers in business districts with robust tree canopies will spend 9-12% more for products. A University of Washington study stated shoppers indicate they will travel greater distance to visit a district having high quality trees, and spend more time there once they arrive. Downtown areas require careful planning to ensure that trees don’t obscure signs and their placement and shade, whether on street or in a parking lot enhances the appeal of areas for visitors and shoppers. One need only look at Orillia’s downtown parking lots and shopping mall areas, like those in West Orillia – on both sides of Highway 12 – to imagine how those areas could be transformed by the presence of mature trees.
And it’s not just the customers who benefit from and enjoy green spaces with mature trees. Views of nature, even plants in offices, help workers reduce stress, boost productivity, improve job satisfaction, and stay more attentive. Vibrant Cities Lab notes, “Call center workers with views of vegetation handled calls 6 to 7% faster.”
Finally, of course, a city with an extensive mature canopy will require people to look after those trees. The result? An increase in good jobs. One American paper indicated the employment effect of urban forests is, “In 2009, the growing urban forestry market in California supported 60,067 jobs resulting in $3.3 billion aggregate income.”
With all of the benefits of a healthy tree canopy over us, including the economic, shouldn’t the planting start now?
TREES CAN BE TOUGH ON CRIME
Recent Sustainable Orillia articles and Tips of the Week examined on the one hand the relationship between student achievement and the presence of mature trees on school grounds, and on another the relationship between human health and the presence of trees in community neighbourhoods. An article described the goal of Orillia’s Environmental Advisory Committee to encourage an increase in the tree canopy in Orillia to 40% – the percentage usually determined to have a cooling effect on a community, a factor being seriously considered worldwide as climate change leads to increasingly hot temperatures. The importance of this cooling aspect is revealed in the news the recent heat dome in B.C.’s lower mainland led to increased deaths from heat-related causes over a period of only a single week:
“B.C.’s chief coroner [Lisa Lapointe} has confirmed the majority of people who died suddenly during the week of June’s record-breaking heat wave lost their lives as a direct result of the extreme temperatures… 570 of the 815 sudden deaths recorded over that time period – 70% – have now been deemed heat related. “(If not) for the extreme heat, they would not have died at that time,” Lapointe said. According to Lapointe, 79 per cent of those who died were 65 or older.”
Research in the U.S. also indicates the presence of trees and other greenery in urban spaces can also lead to a reduction in some forms of crime – in particular, burglary and assault. Admittedly, these studies focus on inner city crime in some of America’s largest cities; the connection to Orillia, a much smaller and very different community, may be tenuous. Nevertheless, some of the explanations behind the impact of greenery on crime reduction should give pause to anyone who might want to disregard the findings.
The findings are significant. The Vibrant Cities Lab reports:
• In New Haven, Connecticut a 10% increase in tree canopy was associated with a 14% decrease in property crimes and a 15% decrease in violent crime.
• Similar results were found in Baltimore, with a 12% drop in all outdoor crimes for each 10% increase in the canopy.
• A public housing development in Chicago had 48% fewer property crimes and 56% fewer violent crimes in or around buildings with more green space.
Perhaps as significant as the correlations between trees and reduced crime are some of the explanations behind the statistics. A 1995 study by Stephen Kaplan proposed that “exposure to nature reduces mental fatigue.” Kaplan noted:
“. . . many settings, stimuli, and tasks in modern life draw on the capacity to deliberately direct attention or pay attention. The information-processing demands of everyday life – traffic, phones, conversations, problems at work, and complex decisions – all take their toll, resulting in mental fatigue, a state characterized by inattentiveness, irritability, and impulsivity. In contrast, natural settings and stimuli such as landscapes and animals seem to effortlessly engage our attention, allowing us to attend without paying attention. For this and a number of other reasons, Kaplan suggested, contact with nature provides a respite from deliberately directing one’s attention.”
Elsewhere, trees have likewise been shown to improve mental health and reduce aggression, thereby lessening the chance someone will commit a crime. In addition to reducing crime on the streets, the reduction in aggression and violence likely also affects the rate of domestic violence against women and children within homes. Given the difficulty of reducing domestic violence in all our communities, the discovery green spaces can do so—to some degree—is well worth noting by those in charge of our community’s wellbeing.
Finally, as Vibrant Cities notes, “Well cared for green space also shows potential criminals residents or businesses in an area care for and respect the community. When a community cares about its space, they are more likely to be active in the outdoor aspects of it.”
Researcher Rachel Kaplan suggested cities should be designed with nature at every doorstep. Again, food for thought for city planners, including those in Orillia and the communities in our area.
TREES AND YOUR HEALTH
A recent Sustainable Orillia article on Orillia’s Urban Forest noted the efforts being made by Orillia’s Environmental Advisory Committee and Councillor Lauer to preserve and expand the tree canopy in our city. Recent scientific research indicates that doing so is more than a matter of maintaining the nice look of mature trees.
The SO article referred to the cooling aspect of a 40% canopy in a city. In addition, it may be no surprise to many to learn that having trees and other greenery nearby leads to feelings of happiness and contentment—much less anxiety in general. But modern research is also uncovering significant correlations between tree cover in cities and the incidence of specific diseases. The research seems to indicate that the presence of trees in neighborhoods creates healthier people—findings that should lead city planners and residents to look closely at the degree of urban forests throughout urban areas.
Orillia’s older neighbourhoods, north of Coldwater Road/Street, appear to be the most heavily forested, largely because trees in those neighbourhoods are considerably more mature than in other parts of the city. In contrast, newly developed areas in West Orillia lack tree cover, mostly because most of the trees in that area are newly planted. Perhaps developers should be considering how to preserve mature trees when developing an area rather than clear-cutting everything and starting from zero?
How big a factor in the health of people is the presence of significant tree cover? Information at Vibrant Cities Lab reveals significant connections between tree cover and specific diseases. For example, a study quoted on the website notes that “In 15 (American) states infected with emerald ash borer, an additional 15,000 people died from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more from lower respiratory disease compared with uninfected areas of the country.” This relationship seems to be the result of the ability of trees to remove pollution from the air, the website noting that “pollution removed by trees in 2010 was modelled to have a combined human health value of $6.8 billion.”
Childhood asthma has also been a focus of study, especially as “U.S. childhood asthma rates increased by 50 percent from 1980-2000.” Again, trees were found to affect asthma rates in positive ways. “Levels of asthma are highest where tree density is the lowest, but the rate of childhood asthma is 29% lower for every 343 trees per square kilometer.” Again, the ability of trees to remove pollutants from the air is likely the mechanism that leads to reduced asthma rates in children.
Not surprisingly, the presence of trees in neighbourhoods reduces the prevalence of skin cancer. The Vibrant Cities Lab website notes that “Urban trees reduce ultraviolet radiation, especially UV-B radiation, which is known to cause skin cancer. A person standing in direct sunlight takes 20 minutes to burn. Under a tree providing 50% coverage, it takes 50 minutes to burn. Under full shade it takes 100 minutes for one to get a sunburn.”
Perhaps more surprising is the idea that obesity can be reduced in neighbourhoods where trees abound. Again, the vibrantcitieslab.com website notes that, “accounting for socioeconomic factors, residents of areas with highest levels of greenery were three times as likely to be physically active and 40% less likely to be overweight or obese than residents living in the least green settings.” Perhaps the connection is not so very surprising when one considers how much more pleasant it is to be outside among greenery compared to being outside in surroundings consisting of asphalt and concrete. Areas with plentiful trees and lots of other greenery are clearly more inviting to people to get outside and be active—gardening, walking, cycling—and physical activities like this could account for the healthier weight in people living in such areas.
What more can treed areas do for people that live among them? How about helping us live longer? A 2017 CBC article by Emily Chung summarizes research suggesting this to be true:
Researchers at the University of New Brunswick used census and tax data to track 1.3 million non-immigrant Canadian adults living in the 30 biggest cities across the country, from Victoria to St. John’s, over 11 years starting in 2001. They measured the amount of greenery from trees, shrubs, grass and other plants within 250 meters (about two blocks) of the study subjects’ homes, using postal codes and satellite data. And they found that as the amount of greenery increased, people’s risk of premature death decreased “significantly” from natural causes.
Dan Crouse, the study’s lead author, was surprised by the results. “There was a lot bigger effect than I think any of us had been expecting,” said Crouse, a health geographer, of the study published in The Lancet Planetary Health. “What we’re able to show with this study is just having trees around where people are living is really important,” Crouse said.
Cardiovascular disease, asthma, skin cancer, obesity and even incidences of premature death—all reduced simply by living among trees. These studies are not just scientific curiosities. They should be indication to planners in cities—both large and small—of the importance of creating and maintaining mature tree canopies in all living areas.
Individual property owners can do much themselves to ensure trees are part of their environment, but with the proper focus on ensuring that trees are a significant part of city planning and development, community leaders can ensure healthier populations. Surely that’s a significant responsibility of municipal and city governments everywhere.
TREES: A READING LIST
Books are one of the best ways to escape to new lands, to explore places you have never been and to learn new things. But what if the pages of your book could tell you about their own origin stories?
The paper pages of a book which takes you to another world lived a whole life before they landed in your hands, on your bookshelf, and in our libraries. we want to share some of our favourite tree stories to honour the lives of the pages and the trees from which they came,.
With the help of the Manticore Book Store in downtown Orillia we created a list of 27 tree-themed books for adults and children. We hope over the rest of the summer you and your family head over to Manticore to pick up some of these amazing books about trees. There is sure to be something for everyone. These are our top five reads for adults and top three reads for kids.
• The Heartbeat of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Peter Wohlleben is a renowned German forester, the book explores how to see, feel, smell, hear and even states the forest. The Heartbeat of Trees explores the deep connections between humans and the natural world. A great read for anyone wanting to understand more about the forest and why you always itch to be surrounded by the trees!
• Around the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori. Jonathan Drori is an environmentalist and BBC documentarian. He explores 80 trees from all over the globe, and explains how these trees play an incredible role in every part of human life. Along with beautiful stories, there are awe-inspiring illustrations which are incredibly informative.
• The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Another amazing Wohlleben book exploring the hidden lives of trees. He demonstrates the scientific data suggesting that trees, like humans, have families and work to care for one another throughout their lives.
• The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth Madness and Greed by John Vaillant. Golden Spruce tells the gut-wrenching story of Grant Hadwin from British Columbia and his act of violence on a 300-year-old Sitka spruce tree. When you read The Golden Spruce, you will find out why he took his chainsaw into one of North America’s oldest and grandest forests.
• To Speak for the Trees: My Life’s Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to Healing Vision of the Forest by Diana Beresford-Kroeger. Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a Canadian botanist and biochemist. In her book you will discover all the twists and turns of her life and how they were marked by trees. You will learn why trees matter and why trees are critical in the efforts to combat climate change.
• Peep inside a Tree by Anna Milbourne, is a great interactive story for kids. They will learn about all the different creatures that engage with trees. Perfect for your little ones to explore what is hiddnen in their local trees.
• The Magic and Mystery of Trees by Jen Green. This book takes children on a captivating adventure to learn how trees communicate; sharing their nurture networks, warning against predators, recording the past, and anticipating the future.
• Can you Hear the Trees Talking? By Peter Wohlleben. Based on The Hidden Life of Trees, Can You Hear The Trees Talking? explores the mysteries and magic of forests at a level which kids will get. Included in this book is a fun-facts list, photographs, and outdoor activities to help engage your kids in your local forests.
Here is a longer list of books about trees Manticore Books has.
While many cultures throughout the world, including our own indigenous peoples in Canada, have long valued their relationship with trees and all other living things, European, American and Canadian cultures are in the process of re-learning this relationship—this time led by scientific inquiry which is revealing the wisdom Indigenous peoples have known all along.
TREES OF KNOWLEDGE
Its common knowledge the shade provided by trees is welcome on a hot summer day, or trees absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen and is thereby essential to the life of all oxygen-breathers. Recently, Sustainable Orillia has found research suggesting trees play – or can play – a more significant role in neighbourhoods. A report published in frontiers in Psychology looks at the effect of trees on school properties on the academic achievement of the students. The study, entitled Might School Performance Grow on Trees? Examining the Link Between “Greenness” and Academic Achievement in Urban, High-Poverty Schools, was
conducted between 2009 and 2010 and strongly suggests that significant presence of trees on school properties may have a positive effect on student achievement in math and reading – core abilities for student success.
The study examined the greenness – academic achievement relationship in a predominantly urban, low-income, minority school district in Chicago. Chicago Public Schools is the third largest school district in the U.S. and the study included 318 public elementary schools serving predominantly low-income populations.
Why the focus on low-income population? Primarily because two earlier studies revealed a correlation between greenness and academic achievement at schools in more well-off neighbourhoods. One study found children in greener schools showed more rapid cognitive development. The other study found schools with more tree cover performed better on standardized tests – even after multiple confounding factors were taken into account. This study’s authors wanted to know if the relationship would hold true in traditionally poorer neighbourhoods.
Interestingly, one of the findings of the study supported previous studies which suggested “grass and shrub cover do not contribute to academic achievement whereas tree cover does.” The study also found that “school tree cover might be a more important factor in achievement than neighbourhood tree cover.” The study’s authors concluded that greenness – more specifically, school tree cover – had the greatest effect on school performance in math and to a lesser extent on school performance in reading.
The authors, concluded the lack of tree cover in low-income areas is not merely an aesthetic issue but an important environmental justice issue, suggesting that experimental greening efforts might focus on [planting trees on] school grounds and the areas within view of a school in order to realize gains in student academic achievement that appear to result from students exposed to nearby trees.
A study like this should lead to some reflection about how we build schools in our communities. Take a look at both elementary and high schools here in Orillia, for example. The practice seems to be to build a school and then surround it with a) paved parking lots and b) playing fields. Both OSS and Twin Lakes S.S. have been shorn of trees, though Twin does have a significant number of trees behind the school (but very few windows through which to see the trees from the inside). Frequently trees have been cleared in order to build schools in the first place.
If studies like the one cited in this article suggest having trees on school property is a key to improved academic achievement, aren’t we missing something in our design of schools? There is not likely a less expensive way to affect the academic achievement of students within our school than planting trees in close proximity to the school buildings.
There might be some administrative objections to having large trees close to a school, but isn’t the primary purpose of a school to have students succeed academically? Seems like a no-brainer to us. Let’s plant some trees.
TAKE A HIKE, IT’S GOOD FOR YOU
In 2005 the term Nature-Deficit Disorder was introduced in the publication of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. Since then the disorder has been diagnosed not only in children but adults as well.
Nature-Deficit Disorder has been linked to reduced use of the senses, attention difficulties in general and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses. Because of computer technology, television and cars, many of us now sit inactively for long periods of time inside and often in stuffy homes, offices and cars. In many cities there are few urban parks and green spaces. We have become alienated from the benefits of nature around us and this alienation has a real emotional and physical effect on our bodies and minds.
Having a nature-deficit also reduces our understanding of nature around us. We are less focused on the importance of maintaining green spaces, forests and waterways and our need for stewardship of the natural world.
One way to resolve Nature-Deficit Disorder is with Forest Bathing. The Japanese have known immersing yourself in nature in a mindful way provides all kinds of mental and physical health benefits. In 1980 the term Forest Bathing was coined: ‘Shinrin” is forest and “Yoku” stands for bathing. Forest bathing—breathing and being in nature, particularly forests—helps your brain to relax and send out positive hormones. It can reduce stress and anxiety and boost immunity. It can improve your heart and lung health and improve focus, concentration and memory.
Researchsuggests Forest Bathing reduces Cortisol to the greater Parasympathetic Nerve, and leads to significant reduction in blood pressure. Many doctors are actually giving prescriptions to patients with anxiety and depression to Forest Bathe regularly.
How To Reduce Nature-Deficit And Bathe In Forests
Get outside as often as you can and walk, hike, snowshoe, cross-country ski and in the summer fish, swim, garden, cycle and jog. Anything that takes you into parks and forested areas is positive, and there are so many opportunities around Orillia.
Areas Where You Can Spend Time in Nature:
- The City of Orillia has more than 29 kilometres of trails, some of which are cleared in the winter. Check out the information and map here.
- Scout Valley
- Grant’s Woods
- Simcoe County Forests Slessor Tract
- Alltrails has running, hiking mountain biking and more trails.
- The Orillia Section of the Ganaraska Hiking Trailis just one of the trails curated by Ganaraska volunteers.
WASTE FOOD NO MORESummer is just around the corner, and with warm weather and longer sunlit days comes an influx of fresh, locally-grown fruits and veggies we all love. Unfortunately, sometimes there’s more food coming into our kitchens than we can eat while it is still fresh.
Taking part in one or all of these food waste reduction steps can make a positive effect on your kitchen, wallet and environmental footprint. What we love about these changes is that anyone can make the move to greater sustainability right in their own kitchen without too much work. Small steps are the best way for our community to live healthier and more sustainable lives.
To help reduce your food waste try these things:
Compost And Green Bins
Taking part in Orillia’s well-established green bin program is one of the easiest ways to reduce your food waste. Knowing what goes into the green bin and what goes into your solid waste garbage is the fastest and most efficient way to make a positive environment effect in your kitchen. Overall, the City’s green bin process takes about eight months from collecting and composting food waste from across the city to converting it into garden-ready compost for next year’s gardens.
However, if you are motivated to make bigger changes, try composting at home. This can be very rewarding as it allows you to realize a significant reduction in your home’s eco-footprint and see an improvement in the health of your home gardens. If you want to learn more about composting at home, we recommend you check out the Natural Resources Defense Council’s plan.
Freeze Your Fresh Produce
Freezing is proven way to reduce food waste, particularly when we pick or purchase too many fresh fruits in season. Those bright red local strawberries are just too much to resist as are Ontario’s world-famous peaches. Rather than trying to eat them all at once or having to throw out produce as it goes bad, why not sort your fruits and vegetables into serving sizes and freeze everything you aren’t going to eat or serve over the next week?
More freezing Ideas:
- Freeze your limes, lemons, and other citrus fruit into ice cubes for a refreshing way to cool a glass of water and add some tang during the hotter weather.
- Cut up your favourite berries, then freeze them for smoothies year-round or add them to ice cream on a really hot summer day. Another benefit? Prepping your berries or fruit beforehand takes away all the work tomorrow.
- Extra veggies can be frozen for future strews, soups, stocks, pasta dishes and stir-fries.
By freezing surplus produce in-season, you will be eating fresh year-round and you will also reduce your carbon footprint by cutting down on purchasing bagged frozen produce from the grocery store. And by the way, when you are freezing produce and meats for future use, please be sure to use recyclable cellophane or containers.
Instead of composting, veggie scraps such as peels, ends and cores can be put in the freezer and saved for vegetable stock. Making your own stock will fill your home with the most amazing smell and it is a great and easy alternative to high-salt grocery alternatives without being difficult to make at all. It’s as simple as filling a container with your scraps and keeping it in the freezer until the container is filled. Then pop the scraps into a pot and add water to cover. Simmer the pot for 40 minutes, add spices to taste, then remove the scraps and you are done!
Taking part in one or all of these food waste reduction steps can make a positive effect on your kitchen, wallet and environmental footprint. What we love about these changes is that anyone can make the move to greater sustainability right in their own kitchen without too much work. Small steps are the best way for our community to live healthier and more sustainable lives.
USEFUL TIPS TO CUT DOWN ON PLASTIC USE
The word ‘plastic’ originates from a Greek word meaning ‘pliable’ or ‘fit for moulding.’ For centuries it was an adjective, used to describe something or someone that could bend and contort without breaking. Sometime in the 20th century ‘plastic’ became a noun, and what a noun it has become.
Some of you may remember the film The Graduate, in which young Benjamin received advice to “pursue a career in plastics.” Well, many people did. Thanks to mass production and globalization, plastic now permeates virtually every corner of our lives, so much we now realize to protect our planet we have to make some tough decisions and significantly reduce our use of plastic – particularly single use or disposable plastics.
Earlier this year the federal government gave notice starting in 2022 single use plastic grocery bags, straws, stir sticks, cutlery, six-pack rings and food containers made from hard-to recycle plastics will be banned. Fast food chains, food retailers and wholesalers, even manufacturers are already taking steps to replace these plastics with environment friendly alternatives. This, and measures local governments are currently considering, is all good news. It’s a clear first step, but is neither soon enough or aggressive enough to resolve the mounting issue of plastic pollution in landfills and oceans.
As citizens we can’t rely on governments alone to lead this change. Knowing every bit counts in reducing our use of plastics, personal, grassroots action is required. For those of you who want to kick-start your personal plastic reduction campaign here are some tips, or reminders, to help reduce your reliance on plastics significantly every day.
The #1 way to reduce our reliance and overall use of plastic (both single-use and the more durable type) is – don’t purchase products made with or packaged with plastic. So much of what we want and need comes wrapped in plastic; this will require an extra step to avoid bringing unnecessary plastics into your home. We aren’t suggesting that you toss out any plastic products you may already own and use; use them as long as you can. However, when the time comes to replace them, please consider investing in the future by seeking out eco-friendly alternatives whenever possible.
Some plastic-reduction measures such as bringing reusable shopping bags for grocery shopping are already wide-spread and many shoppers go further and avoid plastic bags for fruits and vegetables, as well. Grocers sell reusable bags for produce and/or we can buy the products loose. Look for and ask for cardboard containers for berries and give those heavily packaged cheese and cold cut slices a pass. Most of Orillia’s food retailers have deli counters where you can order just the right amount, avoid plastic packaging, and support your neighbours working behind the counter. It’s a win-win-win.
Choose natural products or alternatives. Toothbrushes are a good example. Did you know close to 1 billion used plastic toothbrushes are thrown out annually? That adds up to 50 million tonnes of landfill, which takes centuries to break down, if ever. Instead, toothbrushes made with natural products like bamboo are now available. Many dentist offices recommend and offer their patients bamboo toothbrushes. The good news is these toothbrushes only take six to seven months to biodegrade.
Another opportunity for plastic reduction is tucked away in our clothes closets. Many people have plastic hampers, hangers, shoe racks, and dry-cleaning. In lieu of plastic laundry and clothing hampers, how about hampers made with wooden frames and linen or canvas bags? Wooden hangers may cost a bit more, but they are more durable than plastic ones and for some reason our clothes look better on a wooden hanger. Leave plastic hangers at the store. There is more choice than ever of storage solutions these days, including shoe organizers made entirely from natural materials. It may take time to find an alternative for plastic dry-cleaning bags, but we can take comfort those dry cleaning bags can be recycled, as long they are clean and tag free. Simply include them in your bag of plastic bags for recycling.
Let’s close with a short note on food and drink containers. This is a major opportunity area for plastic reduction, and as mentioned above, one that is already targeted by governments and major fast food chains. At home we can switch to glass and metal food containers for lunch boxes and left-overs. If you do use plastic bags for lunches or freezing, remember they can be washed and reused many, many times. Biodegradable straws are becoming more affordable. Most importantly, please avoid buying beverages bottled in plastic whenever possible.
Orillia has an excellent blue box program which collected an estimated 516 tonnes of plastic last year. The amount of plastic being collected for recycling in Orillia is going up every year, signalling that more people are recycling, which is a good thing, but it also suggests that people are using more plastic. Ultimately the best statistic is one that confirms we are significantly reducing our overall use of plastics – let’s make that our goal.
NOTES FROM A BACKYARD, PART 2
Moving on from last time’s outline about the loss of local habitat leading to a decline of migratory bird species, here’s what can we do to make up for it.
We are part of an interconnected system when it comes to biodiversity and migratory species. We can all do our part to help reinstate a thriving network of natural spaces to better our planet for birds and wildlife, for us and for future generations.
We can make a big contribution to biodiversity by doing a few things in our own back yards. Habitat networks are essential for migratory species of birds and insects and if everyone did these things, we could help replace some of the loss and re-establish networks.
These actions can also encourage mindfulness and increased wisdom about what we observe, creating more opportunities to teach empathy and awe of nature with others – particularly our children – and help biodiversity for future generations.
These things work and are pretty low effort:
- Avoid using chemicals
- A yard doesn’t need to be all or nothing when it comes to neatness. Leaving fall leaves, weeds and naturally established shrubs etc around the perimeter can increase diversity while the main yard area could still be mowed for neatness
- When it comes to lawns, perfection is sterile. Biodiversity can be supported by allowing a variety of small plants that can still be mowed to fit with neatness. White clover and other small plants are just as appealing as grass but can support more creatures. Birds forage for grubs, ground insects, worms etc.
- Not all birds prefer bird feeders. Feeders can also be hoarded by grackles. Throwing small seeds about under bushes or on railings can provide food for juncos, white crown sparrows, cardinals, doves and many more. I like to put a variety of different seeds about the yard. Ideally we’d have fields with wild plant seeds, but these are being eliminated with development.
- Feeders can still be needed through nesting season. Many people remove feeders at end of winter, but with fewer food sources available, feeder seeds can help many birds feed their babies. I’ve had many different birds bring their fledglings to feeders to feed them and to show them how to feed themselves.
- Robins love raisins and grapes. These can be particularly welcome when they return and there’s still snow on ground, or when it’s dry in summer and more challenging to get worms. I have a catbird that also comes for raisins tossed out onto my walkway.
- Sprinklers bring worms to surface for robins. They greatly appreciate it in the dry months of summer
- The outer perimeter of lawns can be left to allow wild native plants to establish. These provide flowers and seeds for birds and insects. They also allow cover for small critters like chipmunks.
- Over time my yard perimeter has had the qualities of a forest bottom with an artfully arranged gathering of my dead Christmas tree, a small twig/wood pile, and leaves to provide cover and food sources from the decay of the material.
- Water sources are as important as food. I keep a couple of terra cotta dishes (the type use under planters) and fill them with clean water and keep at ground level along with a separate bird bath and hanging water dish
- A number of birds like cat kibble. Crows, blue jays, starlings and grackles have all indulged. Place them in a little pile on ground.
- I mow around a few milkweed plants and clumps of flowers or wild strawberries for plant variation while still keeping an overall neat appearance.
- Many plants from box stores have been chemically treated or are sterile cultivars, so if planting for wildlife, try to get native and non-treated plants or grow from seed.
- Many migratory birds fly through around the same time each year. For 3 years in a row now I’ve had a rose-breasted grosbeak arrive in my yard within a day of the previous two years. They appreciate seed feeders.
- Orioles and hummingbirds arrive around the same time each year, so hummingbird feeders and oriole feeders or half oranges are appreciated
- Consider planting fruiting trees and shrubs as well as nut-bearing trees like white oaks. Many of these have declined in favour of planting tidier trees that can’t support diversity.
- Many Facebook groups focus on healthy places for birds. Organic gardening groups, or native plant, insects, bird groups, Orillia Bee City, etc. offer many different perspectives. You can learn much from them. Bird groups often have fun stories about bird antics that can help you look out for similar entertainment from your birds.
- There is a movement called We are the Ark which started in Ireland. You can view their Facebook group as well to learn more about the philosophy of nature knows best and about taking a greater hands-off approach to your back yard.
The same birds will often return. I’ve had a grackle that has the same quirky way it would take a peanut as it did the previous year. My catbird visitor interacts exactly as it did last year. If I’m late tossing out some grapes, I usually find the robins waiting for me.
My yard evolved over time, adding something from the list above year by year. Don’t underestimate the effect of the actions you can take in your own back yard. You can make a difference.
Tip by Susan McTavish
NOTES FROM A BACKYARD, PART 1
It’s well-documented there has been a massive decline in biodiversity over the last few decades. Fifty years ago I saw and heard of insects, birds and other creatures in large numbers all the time and I seldom see or hear them now.
Most of the meadows and fields supporting many species of birds have been replaced with monoculture industrial agriculture. Crops are usually genetically modified to withstand spraying of glyphosate (created by Monsanto, same company that created agent orange) to kill competing weeds – weeds which support many insects and birds.
Other natural areas have been paved over or replaced with housing or commercial developments. These are not designed to have landscapes that will compensate for what was removed from nature. Instead we have chemically treated lawns, plants from box stores that are treated with chemicals or of modified varieties that are sterile and unappealing to insects and birds. Even rural homes often have vast areas of mowed lawns abutting industrial style agricultural fields with no buffers, or edges, of natural field or meadows. Many farmland owners have rented parts of their land to industrial farming. Gone are the bobolinks, meadowlarks, and many other field birds. Field, meadow and grassland habitats are some of the most threatened on the planet.
The days of family-run mixed farms are dwindling. These once had a variety of fruit trees, vegetable gardens, pastures and hedge rows that supported many birds. One can still see the odd apple tree dotting the southern Ontario landscape as a reminder of a more richly diverse time.
What was once a dense network of thriving habitats across the continent has been reduced to smaller, less diverse and widely-spaced areas that must support migrating birds and insects. Buildings, large plate-glass windows, light pollution and roadways amplify migrating challenges.
Even in Orillia our natural spaces are disappearing. Fields and meadows are not conserved or integrated into the master plan. Instead these green fields are pegged for development. These empty lots are usually filled with plants, insects and birds as well a wide spectrum of small critters. Sometimes they can look untidy or invite vagrants or littering, but they are often groomed while awaiting development. Many are cut, even though plants such as milkweed are supporting monarch butterfly larvae and small shrubs and weeds are hosting bird nests. One sweep can wipe out much diversity.
Rather than seeing the value of these spaces, we instead plant little pollinator gardens in parks as a token effort to compensate.
Many supportive habitats for birds have tangled weeds, bugs we judge as unpleasant, and fruiting and nut trees we no longer plant. Decaying or dead trees and plant materials host bird nests or provide bugs for hungry birds. We’ve reduced the complexity of natural habitats to simplistic, controlled spaces that cannot support the diversity of nature. Even our trails, once filled with insects and birds, have been void as of late.
There are some positives. One of the side effects of COVID stay at home orders is a greater focus on one’s own space, providing an opportunity to become more mindful and observant of the goings-on in our yards. More people seem to be gardening and feeding birds. It’s amazing how you can make a huge difference in your own yard. If we appreciated and introduced more biodiversity into our yards or properties we could regenerate a network of biodiversity spaces across the city and province. It doesn’t have to be a labour intensive effort. Many times nature will design itself and we just need some addition of order. It’s taking a middle ground attitude as opposed to manicured perfection.
This is the attitude I’ve taken with my own yard. I’ve tried to create an environment that will support birds and insects while still fitting into the need for a city’s order or tidiness. I will share some of my own practices, trials and experiences regarding this in the next Tip of the Week.
Tip by Susan McTavish
PLASTIC – A FINE MESS WE’VE MADE
Plastic is everywhere. In our cars, in our houses, in our furnishings and clothing. We carry takeout foods in it, and groceries from the store. We drink from it and we put our garbage in it.
That plastic garbage and micro-plastics are also everywhere – in our oceans from pole to pole, in the fish, mammals and other species living in the oceans, in soils, and yes, even in our bodies, a result of our decades of use of plastic products we can’t seem to live without.
Last fall the Canadian government announced a ban on six single-use plastic items: plastic bags, stir sticks, straws, six-pack rings, cutlery, and food containers made of hard to recycle plastics starting n 2022. In addition, the same rules require provinces to develop a national waste management plan, and all plastic sold in Canada needs to be made from at least 50 percent recycled material by 2030.
In order to move forward with the ban, the government recently added plastic to its list of “toxic” products in Canada’s Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). In 2020, a government science assessment found ample evidence that “plastic harms the environment, choking seabirds, cetaceans and other wildlife. The findings form the basis of the government’s decision, as substances can be considered toxic under CEPA if they harm the environment and diversity, human health, or both,” a National Observer story said. Declaring plastic “toxic” was done in spite of intensive lobbying by the plastics industry to persuade the government not to make such a declaration.
Greenpeace Canada Magazine expresses disappointment with the Canadian government’s ban on plastic products, not only in the limited targets, but also with the lack of reduction targets in the production of virgin plastic, a failure they call “a massive shortcoming.”
A recent Greenpeace report, Plastics Recycling: That’s Not a Thing, points out recycling—the remedy for plastic waste the plastics industry has been pushing for decades—simply doesn’t work. In spite of the efforts of homeowners to correctly place plastic in their blue boxes, only 8-9% of plastic waste is recycled. Even in B.C., which leads provinces in its recycling facilities system, 50% of waste still goes to landfills while 30% more is being converted into fuel. The Greenpeace report concludes that “there is no such thing as a circular economy for plastics.”
While all of the report’s recommendations are important, three are noteworthy:
- Strengthen the proposed government approach by phasing out all non-essential plastics by 2030.
- Recognize there’s no circular economy for plastics and make building a zero-waste economy a priority.
- Stop subsidizing petrochemicals and plastic companies that are contributing to the plastics crisis.
The reality is that the plastics industry is a fossil-fuel industry that drives growth in demand for oil and gas. Not only does the industry create the plastic waste crisis we find ourselves in, expanding it will prevent us from reaching a zero-carbon society at some time in the future.
Meanwhile, plastic waste clogs oceans and kills millions of marine animals – well documented effects which alone justify the toxic designation Canada has now given to plastics. Scientists are also increasingly concerned that microplastics (tiny plastic particles found everywhere) harm animal and possibly human health and the environment.
Ashley Wallis, a veteran plastics campaigner with Oceana Canada, said, “If Canada wants to be seen as an environmental leader, it does need to follow through on what it said it’s going to do… if the only thing they regulate is the ban on six single-use items, that is not nearly what’s needed to address the plastic pollution crisis.”
As citizens, our duty should be clear. Speak up, let the Canadian government (and all levels of government) know we expect them to do the right thing. Today’s tip, the right thing in this case is to reduce the use of plastics and therefore it’s production. Once upon a time millions of people lived without plastic – an we do it again?
GREEN SPACE – HEALTH CONNECTION
Can you think of one thing which:
- provides multiple benefits to your physical, mental and social health and wellbeing?
- supports ecosystems and climate change action?
- provides economic benefits to you and your community?
If you said “green spaces,” you’re right!
We know that we all depend on clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, healthy food supplies and green spaces for recreation. But there is growing evidence we gain specific physical and mental health benefits from having access to natural areas and biodiversity, according to EcoHealth Ontario, a collaborative of professionals in the fields of public health, medicine, education, planning and the environment.
EcoHealth Ontario developed a conceptual framework to illustrate links between green space investments, health outcomes and economic benefits. Carefully designed and maintained green spaces increase physical and mental health and wellbeing, reduce environmental health stresses, and increase climate resilience, leading to better health outcomes and saved dollars. When a community invests in green spaces, it’s an investment in the health and wellbeing of community members and the environment.
What are the benefits of green spaces measured against the costs of creating them? “The evidence connecting green space investments to health outcomes is strongest in three areas:
- Physical health improvements associated with higher levels of physical activity;
- Mental health improvements associated with spending time in nature;
- Avoiding health system costs and loss of productivity associated with reduced exposure to air pollution (specifically reduced respiratory symptoms and incidences of cardiovascular disease) and extreme heat).
Green space investment creates more opportunities for people to access and engage with trees, plants, flowers and grass. A park enables increased physical activity, improved cognitive function, more social connections and reduced stress and depression.
Investments can also improve the quality of greenspaces by reducing people’s exposure to negative environmental stress from air pollution, noise pollution or heat. Improving the quality of green spaces further protects the community’s health through increasing climate resiliency, climate change mitigation and adaptation to environmental changes like flooding, erosion, and fires.
Regarding adverse health outcomes, in one case study, the City of Peterborough applied the framework to identify the health and economic benefits of creating a new urban park in what was previously a parking lot and part of a street. This downtown park was designed to enhance physical activity, mental wellbeing, and life satisfaction of those using the space. In addition, the park reduces exposure to air pollution and extreme heat.
Though the cost of the new park is now estimated to be $6.8 million, the economic value of the health benefits is calculated to be worth $4.2 million every year, which means the health cost return on investment into the new park will be paid back in just 1.5 years.
Sustainable Orillia encourages you to learn more about how green spaces benefit your health and wellbeing. Understanding this connection can increase our community’s appreciation for our green spaces and those who tend to them. It also encourages us to seek and support opportunities for new and improved green spaces. Together we can create a more resilient, healthy and sustainable Orillia supporting the health of our environment and citizens.
PRODUCTION CHANGES WILL HELP
One of the best books we’ve come across for ideas on how to combat the climate crisis is The Clean Energy Age: A Guide to Beating Climate Change, by BF Nagy. He researched diligently and convincingly makes the argument we already have the technology we need to make the transition to a more sustainable way of living. The only missing element is the required will from politicians and ourselves to make needed changes.
The book has a chapter of Top 10 Lists – suggestions for groups of people in all walks of life from homeowners to politicians, from developers to store clerks of things each can do to quicken the pace of the changes required. Two previous Tips of the Week have provided a Top 10 List for engineers/architects/tradespeople and another for urban planners. This time we focus on his Top 10 List for manufacturing and agriculture.
Everything we buy is manufactured by someone. For everything we eat, as the saying goes, we need to thank a farmer. Manufacturing and agricultural practices are major sources of carbon emissions and, while solutions for cutting emissions are developing as you read this, much remains to be done.
Here are Nagy’s Climate Change Priority Action Steps for manufacturing teams and for agricultural teams:
- Work with energy-efficient engineers.
- Modernize production-related energy systems and building envelopes.
- Optimize heating and cooling equipment.
- Investigate rooftop solar panels for electricity.
- Save with solar thermal, drain heat recovery, and responsible waste management.
- Press governments on energy issues, fair global trade, investing in electric vehicles and more public transportation.
- Green your fleet, your shipping partners fleets and supply chains.
- Green your shipping partners and supply chains.
- Buy local.
- For livestock farmers, implement manure management with help from government.
Nagy goes into more detail in his book about how each of these steps will contribute to creating a better, more sustainable community. We urge manufactures and their employees to learn more about how they can help fight climate change by greening their operations.
Many cattle farmers are already making progress to reduce emissions of methane from manure and from cattle. In addition, changes by farmers around the world in planting, crop rotation, and other things are resulting in more carbon being trapped in the soil. These examples are leading the way for others.
As our earlier Nagy-inspired Tips noted, buildings are responsible for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation is responsible for 25% more. Emission percentage estimates from agriculture and food production range from 15 to 25%, depending on the country, with methane and nitrous oxide emissions being more serious than carbon emissions. Manufacturing and agricultural sectors are where significant solutions to climate change can be realized.
Nagy’s book is available at Manticore Books in downtown Orillia.
WHEN LIFE HANDS YOU LEMONS, CLEAN
Many of us are experiencing the urge to do some serious spring cleaning around our homes. There’s something about sunshine coming through our windows highlighting those overlooked corners calling out for attention. However, before you reach for some of the cleaning products you may have used in the past, Sustainable Orillia believes it timely to promote the eco-friendly virtues of lemons as part of your spring-cleaning routines this year.
Lemons, as you likely know, are a very versatile fruit. They originated in parts of Asia and arrived in Italy around 500 AD. From there they spread throughout the Mediterranean area. In 1492 Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to the New World where they literally took root. Although most people don’t eat raw lemons, the fruit is a culinary staple as a flavouring and ingredient in many of our recipes. It’s also renowned for its medicinal properties, particularly as a source of Vitamin C. Lesser known however, is how this multi-purpose member of the citrus family can fit into your cleaning routine and leave your home sparkling clean and smelling fresher than ever.
So how can lemons be used for a greener clean around your home? A quick canvas of the internet will provide you with dozens of applications, which we have edited down to the five which have the broadest application for all sorts of homes.
This is an obvious one and no doubt many of you have already used some version of a water and lemon juice solution to clean your windows. Just fill a spray bottle with water, add a few tbsp. of lemon juice and you’re set. If you have some old newspapers lying about, they work brilliantly as a wipe for window cleaning. It’s a great way to repurpose yesterday’s news.
This tip works for both conventional oven and microwave cleanups and proposes you use lemons in place of some of the harsher chemical products often used to clean ovens. For the microwave, fill a small to medium-sized microwaveable bowl with water and add a couple of tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Toss in some lemon rinds, as well, if you have them. Place the bowl in the microwave at a high setting for three to five minutes. Don’t open the door yet, though; leave the bowl in the microwave for another five minutes to let the steam do its work. Then remove the bowl and wipe down the inside walls. Follow more or less the same process for conventional ovens; fill an oven-safe bowl with a water and lemon solution similar to above and place it in the oven at 250°F for thirty minutes. Let the oven cool, remove the bowl and wipe down the inside of the oven. If there are some spots requiring more attention, apply a paste of lemon and salt to help finish the job.
Be sure to test this on a less visible surface first because wood surfaces can vary in response to different treatments. Prepare a mixture of two-parts olive oil with one-part lemon and dab with a clean rag. Then apply it gently to wood surfaces, buff, and your furniture will gleam!
Adding lemon juice to your water bucket not only picks up grime, it’ll leave your floors shining and smelling fresh. Simply add equal parts vinegar and lemon juice to water and mop.
Lemon juice can break down mineral deposits around faucets. Simply spritz it onto the deposit, leave it for fifteen minutes and wipe off. To remove tarnish on your copper, aluminum or brass pots, try sprinkling some coarse salt on the cut side of a lemon and then rub gently over the metal surface.
We hope you’ll try lemons as a natural, sustainable cleaning option, along with salt, vinegar, and baking soda are eco-friendly partners in ensuring a chemical-free, green clean around your home. If and when you decide to get rid of the chemical cleaning agents you may currently be using, be sure to check recycling guidelines in your area for proper disposal. And keep some lemons handy. No other cleaning product will look as beautiful on your kitchen counter as a big bowl of cheery yellow lemons.
THE POWER OF THE PEN, OR KEYBOARD
Sustainable Orillia’s theme for April, May and June is renewal, which is natural to the time of the year and especially poignant in 2021 as we try to recover from over a year of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
And what a year it has been. In addition to the steady stream of COVID 19 news, we have seen protests against the lockdowns instituted by governments; we have seen the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the death of George Floyd caused by a Minneapolis policeman; we have seen protests led by anti-vaxxers against the vaccines, and protests by those protesting the refusal of anti-vaxxers to accept the vaccines.
All of us probably regret the violence which has arisen during several of these actions, both in the USA and here in Canada, but few of us, I would guess, question why people are protesting. When people feel they are being ignored, or worse, being victimized, or when they see a great injustice occurring, a strong reaction is entirely understandable. An active response, a demonstration of some kind, is natural.
Many Canadians, however, and in particular those living in small towns or rural communities, find activism does not come naturally. With the exception of youth who are now making their voices heard about climate change and of indigenous peoples across this country who have been seeking change through peaceful confrontations with both industry and governments, Canadians tend to be a passive people. Even during elections, on average only 50-60% of eligible voters bother to turn out to vote, and between elections many of us tend to ignore what our governments are doing.
There are many issues which motivate people – inequality, economic crisis, the deaths in long term care facilities, and others, but for those of us at Sustainable Orillia the disaster threatened by the climate crisis demands more from us than passivity and resignation. It demands action.
The need for action on a multitude of issues demands we renew our sense of responsibility as citizens of this community, province, country and planet. Citizens, especially in a democracy, must be prepared to let their voices be heard. And no, it is not always necessary to take to the streets, although if there has ever been a cause to act on, climate change is it.
Instead, ask yourself whether you might phone the local MP’s office, or your MPP. Could you and other family members or friends arrange to meet with either your MP or MPP to discuss your concerns that governments aren’t doing enough to either prevent the worst of climate change effects, or to adapt to the changing world we’re already seeing?
You don’t need to be an expert to tell him or her how you feel. How about writing a letter (remember those) to your mayor, premier, or prime minister? No postage is required to send a letter to Justin Trudeau. Attend town hall meetings. Join a political party. Run for political office.
Sign an online petition. Better yet, start a petition yourself and engage friends and family in conversation about the issue you raise. Talk to friends and family about topics concerning you whether it’s pollution, loss of diversity in animals, chemical and environmental threats to bees and other pollinators, or the threat of plastics to life in our oceans and our own lives. There is no end of what each of us as individuals can do to change the world for the better.
Be hopeful. Be optimistic. By acting now, there is a good chance the worst aspects of climate change can be avoided, but act we must.
There are over 30,000 people living in Orillia today. Imagine if each of us – man, woman, and child – wrote a letter to the prime minister to ask for stronger action on the climate crisis. Can 30,000 letters arriving in his office be ignored? Now imagine thousands more across this country demanding the same thing.
This is a springtime call for renewal of citizen responsibility and activism. Let’s raise our voices and take action for a better world. Together we can make a difference.
Tip by Fred Larsen
BIRDS DON’T SEE GLASS
COVID-19 brought some unexpected experiences, but a sudden rise in concern for the safety of migratory birds was not exactly predictable. In fact, it is a surprise to Michael Mesure, executive director and o-founder of the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP).
“We, as a charity, anticipated the bottom falling out (of fundraising efforts) and prepared a budget according to that, and the exact opposite happened. It’s hard to keep on top of it all,” he said, referring to the sudden interest in saving migratory birds.
Widely recognized as the leading authority on bird/building collision issues, FLAP estimates around 25 million migratory birds die every year as a direct result of collisions with buildings. The difference between the pre-COVID era and now is people have been working from home and are present to hear or see the collision of birds with their windows.
“According to some of these companies that produce bird collision deterrent products, their sales have tripled, even quadrupled, because homeowners are out there looking for solutions,” Mesure said.
Of course spring is the time of year birds return from their southern sojourns and most Canadians eagerly anticipate their arrival with their singing, color, and we’re tired of winter.
With the sudden influx of birds passing through the region comes a spike, not only of birds dying, but also injured birds. If you hear that awful telltale thump against your living room window, there are a few things you should know.
“If the bird is alive, the first thing you need to do is not leave it out there, exposed,” Mesure said. “Depending on where you live, these birds get scavenged very quickly. It could be a neighbor’s cat, it could be a crow, it could be a squirrel, or even a chipmunk that gets them, right outside your window. Also, exposure to the elements(is a factor). At the wrong time of year, it could be either too cold or too hot for the bird to be exposed.”
Sometimes the collision with a window merely stuns the bird for a few minutes and then it flies off on its own. At other times the injury is more serious and requires further intervention.
“Gently cup the bird in your hand and place it in a cardboard box with a towel at the bottom of it, or in an unwaxed paper bag. Unwaxed is especially important, as they will suffocate inside a waxed bag, whereas in the unwaxed, they will be able to breathe. Just to give yourself peace-of-mind cut a little hole in the paper bag or box, so it’s going to be able to breathe inside the bag. Do not feed or provide water to the bird. It’s best just to leave it alone and ideally you then get on the phone and find a local wildlife rehabilitator (the nearest rehabilitation centers to Orillia are Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge in Pefferlaw and Procyon Wildlife in Beeton) that is willing to take the bird off your hands, assess it, perhaps rehabilitate it and release it back into the wild. That is the best scenario.”
Mesure says if you hear the bird flapping around in the box or bag, do not open it in the same location where you found the bird. Take it to a natural clearing where it is less likely to collide with the same window in its excitement to be free.
While there are many attempts at solutions to the problem of bird strikes, sadly, many are not effective. Those well-meaning decals often cause the bird to try and fly around them with the same potentially disastrous results. There is one solution that does seem to work, but it requires what may appear to some as a bit of a visual sacrifice. Undaunted by the potential of a slight reduction in his view, Sustainable Orillia’s president, Stan Mathewson, was inspired to create his own DIY remedy.
Stan and his wife Sophie own a rather large wooded lot by Orillia city standards, and live in a mid-century house where the style of build included very large windows. To complicate matters further they have two decks with glass railings, and windows and railings together add up to a lot of potential bird collision challenges.
“What the birds do is they see the trees reflected in the glass and they think they are flying to a tree. We moved in six years ago and every spring there were a lot of birds that got killed or stunned. Being nature lovers we just said this is not acceptable.”
Stan did some research and found a UK website which suggested scribing lines with a white China marker on the outside of the glass.
“Initially you kind of notice the lines, but after a while you don’t notice them at all. It creates a visual barrier for the birds and they go “oh, okay, I am not going to fly into that.”” To draw the lines in a straight fashion, Stan used a piece of 2×2 lumber and uses it as a template in various sizes to match his window size.
“It’s worked remarkably well. In fact, it’s made a huge difference. Last year, I don’t think we had even one bird strike.”
FLAP has more ideas on how to keep birds from striking your windows.
Tip by Kari Klassen
INCLUDE NATIVE PLANTS IN YOUR GARDEN PLAN
Spring 2021, a time of renewal that has happily been gentler and earlier. The season brings a burst of energy, heightened this year by months of sequestering from winter weather with the ongoing pandemic. For most of us, spring triggers an undeniable urge to get out into our yards and gardens, to clean up and begin to lay out our plans for gardening season.
This is the ideal time to learn more about native plants and how to incorporate them into your gardens. Native plants grow naturally in an area, and as a result they are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions than species from other regions. They are more durable and generally need less care and water. Native plants bring sustainable diversity to our gardens and they are in harmony as a source of nectar, pollen and seeds for butterflies, birds, insects and animals. Homeowners, landscapers and local policy makers, can help birds, pollinators and local wildlife by opting for native plants whenever making landscaping decisions.
So which plants are native to our region? How do you learn more about them? And where can you get some native plants and pollinators for your gardens?
There is a wide variety of perennials, shrubs and trees native to our area. With a little planning, local gardeners can enjoy blooms throughout the season (very important for pollinators) and preserve healthy habitats for insects, birds and wildlife. Perennial varieties include Black-Eyed Susans, Red and White Trilliums, Bee Balm, Wild Geraniums, Purple Cone Flowers and others. Native shrubs such as the Common Lilac, Ninebark or Dogwood add colour and texture to your garden. Flowering trees like the Eastern Redbud will explode with vibrancy in your late spring garden.
John McMullen, Orillia’s manager of park planning and development, said pollinating and native plantings are part of the City’s planning agenda. Their priorities reflect not only best practice, but also growing public awareness of the benefits of using pollinating and native plants in parks, private spaces and gardens. John and his team are putting the final touches on a butterfly and bee garden for Tudhope Park. By the Victoria Day long weekend the new garden will feature many native flowers, shrubs and trees for pollinators. Interested readers can find the new garden next to the Kids for Turtles building and see first-hand how beautiful and appealing a garden of native species can be.
John said preparing and planting a garden of native species follows the same process as that for most of our gardens. He emphasizes the importance of good soil enriched with organic (composted) matter. Despite the benefit of requiring somewhat less water and maintenance than non-native species, John cautions to be successful native plantings will require some maintenance, particularly to defend against weeds and invasive species. For interested readers, John has provided the following link to, which provides a great For more information about plants suited and in many cases native to our area see Landscape Ontario’s publication Beautiful Non-Invasive Plants for your Garden.
Three of the major nurseries carry a variety of native plants in their assortments. Depending on weather conditions Ego’s, Windmill Garden Centre and Scott’s Garden Centre have assortments of native plants starting mid-April.
Pat Scott said If you can’t find a particular shrub, tree, ground cover or perennial, they can be special ordered. Kristin Ego said customers have a growing interest for native plants and there is a desire to attract pollinators or migrating birds, which underscores the symbiotic relationship between native plants and their eco-surroundings. With a little expert advice from any of our garden centers, it seems there is nothing preventing any of us from creating an appealing, season-long garden that will enhance the sustainability of our immediate environment.
(Editor’s Note) Blooming plants sold for replanting are often sterile, produce little nectar, and can have pesticides used on them making them useless for bee’s and butterflies, so ask before you buy if your intent is to have a pollinator garden. If confronted with rows and rows of blooming plants for sale and you don’t see bees and other insects flying around, that’s a good indicator you are looking at plants not suitable for pollinator gardens.
BUILD BETTER HOMES
“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” (Robert Swan in The Clean Energy Age)
One of the best books we’ve come across for ideas of how to change our ways of living in order to combat the climate crisis is The Clean Energy Age: A Guide to Beating Climate Change, by BF Nagy. He researched diligently, and convincingly makes the argument we already have what we need to make the transition to a more sustainable way of living, a transition to reduce our emissions to the level required. All we need is the will and determination to make needed changes.
The first chapter, Top 10 Lists, has suggestions for people of all walks of life, from homeowners to politicians and developers to store clerks, of things we do to quicken the pace of required change.
This column, with thanks to Nagy for his work, focuses on the list for developers and builders. We noted in other Tips of the Week homeowners can make a real difference in their consumption of energy and their emissions by retro-fitting their houses. Developers and builders, however, work daily in our city building new housing and here is the opportunity to build housing that will not need retrofitting. Why? Because a new house is energy-efficient, healthy for its owners, and as a result will save the homeowner thousands of dollars in energy costs for years to come.
Here are Nagy’s “Climate Change Priority Action Steps” for builders and developers:
1. Green your approach: Proactive industry greening is more profitable than reactive.
2. Promote a greener building code.
3. Design better building envelopes and conservation features.
4. Electrify cooling and heating.
5. Offer solar and/or build solar ready.
6. Build geothermal and district energy.
7. Promote green features in bids.
8. Sell or lease quickly by promoting green features.
9. Lobby governments about clean power plants.
10. Green your fleet and save on operating and human resource costs.
Nagy goes into more detail in his book about how each step will contribute to creating a better, more sustainable community. We urge area developers and builders to learn more about how they can help fight climate change by building better and more sustainably.
Swan’s opening quote is clear, all of us have roles to play and those who are building homes and commercial buildings can not only change the way we live, they can also urge governments at all levels to move ahead making the improvements we need to create more sustainable, energy efficient building.
Nagy points out our buildings are responsible for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions and here is where real solutions to climate change can be realized. The book is available at Manticore Books.
AGRICULTURE BIGGEST EMISSION CONTRIBUTOR
A new study, published in Nature Food and conducted by researchers from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, found that food systems are responsible for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The study examined every stage of the global food chain from production to consumption. Predictably, the largest contribution to emissions (71%) came from agriculture and associated land use and land use change (deforestation, soil degradation), with the remaining from supply chain activities (retail, transport, fuel production, waste management, industrial processes and packaging).
University of Oxford’s Dr John Lynch, who researches the climate impacts of food, independently noted that “it has often been hard to get fully detailed coverage across the whole food system” and that this new study is a “great resource.”
Agriculture takes up half the world’s habitable land. Livestock accounts for 77% (including land for growing feed) while it produces only 18% of the world’s calories and 37% of total protein.
Interestingly, food packaging creates more emissions than food miles.
The study shows, according to Sonja Vermeulen, program director at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, we can feed the world’s eight billion people if we address the problems. “It is theoretically possible,” she said in a Carbon Brief report, “even with population growth, for everyone in the world to eat a healthy and culturally appropriate diet without transgressing planetary boundaries for carbon, biodiversity, nitrogen, phosphorus and water… but that will take a lot of effort both technically and politically.”
The new study highlights that we need a mixed bag of technical and political solutions.
“There’s no single silver bullet – if we focus only on more plant-based diets, or only on improved agricultural practices, or only on the energy and transport sectors, we won’t get to where we need to be – we need all three,” Vermeulen said.
One answer is farming in less disruptive ways with restorative agriculture to produce food in ways which don’t deplete soils. Examples include permaculture and composting farm and garden waste.
Another answer is shifting away from diets that rely heavily on animals, which require a lot of land and water and produce high methane emissions (plant-centered diets are also healthier). A solution to global warming and the climate crisis, as well as poverty and deteriorating public health lies at the end of our knives and forks.
Yet another answer is paying attention to reducing packaging, long-distance transport, excessive storage and processing, and cutting food waste. Many – maybe most – Orillians are already composting food waste, bringing our own shopping bags and buying local produce at farmers’ markets.
We have many opportunities to resolve the climate crisis, and we need them all. Food systems are a big piece of the puzzle.
TIPS FOR ENGINEERS, ARCHITECTS AND TRADESPEOPLE
“What humans do over the next 50 years will determine the fate of all life on the planet.” (David Attenborough: quoted in The Clean Energy Age)
As we noted in an October Tip of the Week, one of the best books we’ve found for ideas on how to combat the climate crisis is The Clean Energy Age: A Guide to Beating Climate Change, by B.F. Nagy. He researched diligently and convincingly makes the argument we already have what we need to make the transition to a more sustainable way of living. The only missing element is the required will and determination to make needed changes.
He begins his book with a chapter of Top 10 Lists, suggestions for people of all walks of life, from homeowners to politicians and developers to store clerks, of things each can do to quicken the pace of the changes required.
Let’s focus on his top 10 list for engineers, architects and tradespeople. We have noted in other Tips of the Week homeowners can make a real difference in their consumption of energy and emissions by retro-fitting their houses and using new technology. Developers and builders, we have also noted, are working daily in our city building new housing and they can produce housing from first build, which is efficient in energy use. But both homeowners and builders depend on another important group of people in our community, architects who design buildings, engineers who ensure structural integrity, and tradespeople who actually do the work.
Here are Nagy’s Climate Change Priority Action Steps for engineers, architects and tradespeople:
1. Phase yourself out of working on fossil fuel-based projects.
2. Push for clean building tech financial help and incentives.
3. Push governments toward renewable power generation.
4. Help green the building code.
5. Think bigger about energy.
6. Trumpet your green technology successes.
7. Promote green transportation.
8. Modernize the plumbing.
10. Read Jane Jacobs.
Nagy goes into more detail in his book about how each of these steps will contribute to creating a better, more sustainable community. We urge area architects, engineers and tradespeople to learn more about how they can help fight climate change by building better.
All of us have roles to play and designers and builders of homes and commercial buildings can not only change the way we live, but also urge governments at all levels to move forward making improvements we need to create sustainable, energy efficient and emission-free buildings.
As our earlier Nagy-inspired Tip noted, buildings are responsible for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions and this is where significant solutions to climate change can be realized.
Nagy’s book can be purchased at Manticore Books in downtown Orillia. If it’s not in stock, they’ll order one.
BANANA FOR SCALE
Every day we are faced with choices that will push our planet even further to a final precipice of no return. Every day many of us confidently assuage our guilty conscience. After all it is only one water bottle/plastic bag/empty can/clamshell. Does it really matter if we do not compost/conserve water/reduce electrical consumption/find an alternative to fossil fuels?
Many of us now believe that we are responsible for our collective actions which will alter the lives of our grandchildren. It can be hard to separate the truth from the cries of wolves. So, put aside all the theories, debates, and essays, quiet your brain chatter and go to the supermarket.
My new food challenge is determining the quickest and shortest route to my plate. I love farm-to-table, I buy local food movements, but I still enjoy exotic fruit – which I define as blueberries in the winter, those glorious little kiwis and of course the best of all – potassium-rich bananas. I started tracking where this lovely trio might ship from. Wow, if those air miles were redeemable, there would be a Tesla in every garage. Kiwis can travel almost 14,000 km from New Zealand, or almost 8,000 km from Greece to Toronto. Blueberries travel almost 4,000 km from Mexico, or can come from 50 km away in Barrie and frozen for winter usage. A healthy banana can travel 4,300 km from Columbia, or 13,000 km from the Philippines.
I now shop with a calculator and a budding determination to make better choices. Yes, my banana choice will make a difference as I move towards my next step – weaning myself from these long-distance environmental grenades, and choosing locally grown blueberries from my freezer and healthy Meaford apples.
Submitted by Christine Hager
WINTER AT NIGHT
February is WinterActive month. It’s intended to encourage physical activity through play in the elements. Most outdoor activities typically embrace snow and colder temps during daylight hours, but what if your adventurous spirit didn’t have to end when the sun goes down? Let’s consider some options for getting active outside under the cover of night for a different kind of outdoor experience. If we’re going to make our community and our planet sustainable, we’ll need to get to know it in all its features, its rhythms and its wonders.
Check weekly weather forecast to find a clear night to take a stargazing walk. You’ll be able to see basic constellations with the naked eye (although binoculars or a simple telescope can certainly enhance your view, but really, neither are necessary). The plough, aka Big Dipper, is an easy-to-identify group of seven stars whch, once spotted, serves as a marker from which you’ll be able to locate the North Star, aka Polaris because it sits directly over the North Pole. Find a sky map online or consult an astronomy book for beginners to help guide your search. It’s truly remarkable how taking time to simply look up at the night sky gives us pause to reflect on the infinite beauty of the natural world.
Following the lunar cycle is another spectacular way to engage interest in the great outdoors. Plan a hike, snowshoe or X-country ski under the next full moon. February boasts the full Snow Moon on the 27th around 3 a.m., but will likely be best viewed the evening of the 26th. Just as the moon phases influence the ocean’s tide, they are anecdotally believed to influence an energetic shift in people. Some consider the full moon a time to release old energy and welcome new, as well as an opportunity to express creativity and gratitude.
Create a comfortable backyard viewing area for some post night-excursion R&R the whole family can enjoy. If you live in an area that permits fire pits set one up and bring blankets for added warmth. Make a night of it by preparing snacks such as a charcuterie board, S’mores and hot beverages. If a fire isn’t an option where you live, try illuminating your space with lanterns or homemade tiki torches.
There are of course some safety measures to consider when venturing anywhere outdoors at night. Be sure to wear some reflective gear and keep to familiar territory. It’s always a good idea to let others know your planned route and take a cell phone with a location tracker along in case of emergency. There are helpful apps like What3words that have proven to be lifesavers.
Fresh air therapy is so beneficial to both mind and body. By conceptually expanding the hours of enjoyable outdoor playtime we can help make outdoor active living more attainable for those working the bulk of daylight hours. Think of it as a paradigm shift to promote a fresh perspective on our natural surroundings, strengthen our relationship to it and foster a desire to protect it.
Sustainability begins with a full appreciation for our planet and all that it offers us. And remember, the great outdoors never really closes.
Tip by Rosanna Shillolo
WINTER IS FOR THE BIRDS
Winter can easily become a time of boredom and shuttering ourselves indoors, so it helps to be reminded there’s never been a better time to get outside to explore and connect with nature. Lockdown restrictions have severely limited our entertainment options but if this steers us back to nature then everyone and our furry and feathered friends stand to win. Whether you make a point of taking regular nature walks, are inspired to become a birder, or try your hand at nature photography, a world of possibility and real time entertainment awaits
To get an idea of who is living in your neck of the woods head outdoors after a fresh snowfall for clues in the form of tracks. If you find some but aren’t sure what made the impressions, try consulting the Canadian Wildlife Federation to assist in your investigation. Not uncommon to roam our area this time of year are squirrels, rabbits, fox, mice, skunk, raccoons, on occasion deer, or sometimes even moose. We can tell a lot about an animal’s behaviour by following its tracks.
Nature photography can be an enjoyable hobby and a useful tool to observe birds and mammals unique to our region. Pictures last longer than memory, are great for journaling and can provide greater detail than what we initially recall. There are several free apps, the most popular being iNaturalist, to upload pics for recording, mapping and identify sightings. Observational data is then shared to an open platform to assist the public, conservation agencies and scientific researchers. It’s an interactive way to engage in and learn more about our ecosystem.
Discover the world of birding, once a niche pastime, it’s experiencing a surge in popularity because it’s accessible and can be enjoyed at a social distance. According to Swan Lake Outdoor Education Centre’s Twitter, the benefits of birding include strengthening connections with nature, fostering curiosity, offering opportunities to practice patience and acceptance.
Some winter birds to look out for in our area are blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, grosbeaks, finches, sparrows, juncos and even the elusive snowy owl. Visit the library for books on aviary identification, or you can reference any number of fantastic resources online such as Wild Birds Unlimited, eBird and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Some websites also have free interactive apps and live camera feeds such as Project Feederwatch allow you to get incredibly up-close views.
If you want to attract birds, try providing them sanctuary in the form of a feeder or birdhouse. This will encourage their survival and increase the frequency of their visits. If you’re looking for a project, The David Suzuki Foundation offers comprehensive step-by-step instructions on how to build a fat block bird feeder. You can get creative by upcycling materials from your blue box such as milk cartons and plastic bottles to offer food and shelter. The type of food you offer will attract certain types of birds. For example, cardinals prefer shelled peanuts and dried fruit whereas jays and woodpeckers are partial to sunflower seeds. Be sure to place a feeder or house a minimum of 5 ft from any windows. For extra measure, you can apply decal stickers to windows to help prevent collisions.
Tip by Rosanna Shillolo
GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY
“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” – Aristotle
The COVID lockdown may have you feeling cooped up, but a cure for cabin fever might be as simple as child’s play.
We know fresh air and exercise is good for body and mind at any age, but even more beneficial is engaging in recreational activity outdoors. This is more important than ever now virtual school and working from home is the new normal for many. It means we’re more dependent on technology and spend too many sedentary hours indoors.
Increased screen time may negatively impact our relationship to the beauty and wonder right outside our door. Not only is play time good for mental, physical and social development, it also improves cognition, communication skills and creativity which helps develop well rounded individuals. When immersed in playful outdoor activity we can gain a deeper connection to and concern for the natural resources that surround us. Sustainable play is a celebration of our natural landscape in ways that are whimsical and fun without negatively impacting the ecosystem where we live.
There are plenty of sustainable ways to engage in play and it’s a good idea to schedule recesses throughout the day to help build the healthy habit of getting outside regularly. The fresh air breaks will leave you feeling energized, refreshed and more focused for your return to school or work.
Few things awaken childlike wonder and curiosity like building a snowman (snow person). Upcycle old clothing and materials to outfit your Frosty and proudly display it in your front yard to spread cheer and inspire the neighbourhood. Your creativity may lead to a whole community of snow people, as Severn Township is showing us these days. Think outside the traditional three stacked balls of a snowman and express yourself by making a snow sculpture instead. Make it a family affair or even divide household members into teams for some friendly competition. Constructing a snow fort or maze is a great way for kids to learn to collaborate and communicate their ideas. Scavenger hunts encourage exploration and closer attention to our surroundings and the wildlife that inhabits it. Tobogganing can be excellent exercise and is guaranteed to bring big smiles to rosy cheeks.
You don’t always need a plan or structure to play. Combat feelings of stress by tapping into a more carefree, child-like spirit. Try lying on your back in the snow and looking up to the vastness of the sky and clouds floating by. Observe the birds singing in trees while squirrels defy gravity among their branches. Spark joy catching snowflakes on your tongue or give in to the playful urge to make snow angels. When we’re immersed in nature our appreciation for it grows organically along with the sense that we’re a part of, and not exclusive to, this big beautiful world in which we live.
If it can be said silver linings exist amid uncertainty and lifestyle upheaval brought on by the pandemic, then opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with nature is surely one of them, even if it is by default. Perhaps 2021 is the year we commit to enjoying more of our natural playground and, as a result, we hopefully strengthen our efforts to help conserve our planet.
Tip by Rosanna Shillolo
LOCKDOWN TIME EQUALS LEARNING TIME
There aren’t many positive things one can say about the ongoing pandemic which restricted many of our everyday activities for almost a year now. That being said, COVID-19 has triggered a significant behavior change around the world, demonstrating our ability to adapt rapidly when we are at risk. Despite this new-found awareness and ability to change behavior, can and will we bring this same mindset to head off the looming crisis posed by global warming? And how can we use our time now, during this lockdown period to inform and prepare ourselves to tackle the climate crisis?
Yes, we can all do something and this is the right time to expand our knowledge of Climate Change and what we can do about it. The combination of winter weather and currently remaining in our homes presents the ideal moment to pursue this knowledge. Whether you want to learn more about global warming or for ways to live more sustainably, there are many high-quality books and films available to broaden your understanding of what is happening, and what science tells us has to happen to reverse this dangerous trend.
Here are some titles, which if you haven’t already read or seen, we recommend as a good start.
A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency. Authored by Seth Klein, a public policy researcher, based in Vancouver, the book demonstrates how wartime thinking and community efforts can be applied today to help Canada reduce its Greenhouse Gas emissions. The book is structured around lessons from World War II – the last time Canada faced an existential crisis.
Silent Spring. First published in 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is considered the catalyst for starting the global grassroots environmental movement. As relevant today as it was almost sixty years ago, Carson’s main point was to demonstrate the powerful and often negative effect humans have on the natural world. It underscores how important every species is to the survival of our own species, including our currently imperiled friends, the bees.
Brave New Arctic: The Untold Story of the Melting North. Canadians will be interested in this insider account of how scientists unraveled the mystery of thawing Arctic ice in the 1990’s. Mark C. Serreze, a geographer and director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre, brings their challenge to life for readers. Sadly, our polar bear population doesn’t need to read about the diminishing ice floes in the Arctic, they are living it, and unless we do something now, we will soon be experiencing the effects as well.
Younger readers can benefit from broad assortment of books on the subject. They appeal not only young adults and children, but older generations as well. Here’s a sampling of four titles:
Owl Moon. Jane Yolen tells a gentle story of a young girl and her father visiting the woods on a clear winter night in search of the great horned owl. The illustrations and the prose capture the stillness and awe of nature. The 1988 Caldecott Medal winner is a timeless and beautiful story is available in audio form on the internet, which is ideal for snuggling up with your younger children on a winter’s night.
Greta’s Story: The Girl who went on Strike to Save the Planet. Written by Valentina Camerini, it is the inspiring story of the young eco-activist whose persistence sparked a global movement – proving you are never too young to make a difference. Ideal for young people ages 8 to 12, the book speaks directly to this generation and encourages their activism and their hope
The Lorax. Dr. Seuss chronicles the plight of the environment with a message as real today as it was when written fifty years ago. While Dr. Seuss’s imaginative language, prose and characters fascinate even the youngest reader, the story has meaning for readers of all ages.
It’s Getting Hot in Here: The Past, Present and Future of Climate Change. Bridget Heos tackles the issue of global warming head-on for a teen audience. She examines the science behind it, the history of climate change on earth and the ways humans have affected the current crisis we face. It shows how interconnected we are with everyone else on the planet and with those who will follow us. Despite the grim possibilities, this book provides readers with hope and tools on how they can make a positive difference.
2040. Concerned about his young daughter’s future, filmmaker Damon Gameau traveled the world in search of new approaches and solutions to climate change. This 92 minute documentary looks at the effects of climate change over the next 20 (now 19) years. It is an exercise in fact-based dreaming – encouraging creative problem solving and how we can use technologies that exist today to reverse the effects of climate change.
The Biggest Little Farm. A documentary film telling the true story of two dedicated environmentalists, and how their commitment to diversified farming turned 200 acres of arid scrub land into a paradise in under ten years. Lots of fun for all ages, this 2 hour 32 minute film is a charming presentation of how individuals can, with commitment, make a difference and become a model for others to follow.
Cowspiricy, The Sustainability Secret. Filmmakers Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn produced this shocking, yet humourous documentary. The 91 minute film explores the environmental impact large-scale farming has on our planet and offers a path to global sustainability for a growing population.
We hope your appetite is whetted, as there’s never been a better time to expand knowledge of sustainability and there’s never been a more critical time for us to do so. Your recommendations and reviews of relevant material are always welcome at Sustainable Orillia. Over the next few months, as we update our web-site these recommendations and others will be posted to an ever-expanding list of reading and viewing options. Visit us for more information on how you can participate.
IT’S FREEZING, TIME TO GET OUTDOORS
February is Winter Active month here in Orillia. This presents a golden opportunity to improve our physical literacy, which means developing the motivation for, and understanding of, different types of beneficial movement.
The shorter days and sub-zero temperatures might make some want to hibernate and avoid winter altogether, but there really are so many perks to the season we can learn to embrace. Although the pandemic has resulted in the restricting of some activities we might normally enjoy during the colder months, there are great outdoor options that just might give you a refreshing sense of optimism while developing an even greater appreciation for the importance of preserving our natural environment. .
It’s vital to both our physical and mental well-being to get a minimum of 20 minuntes of sun exposure daily to help maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D. This sunshine vitamin boosts our immunity and helps to prevent and treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also referred to as the winter blues. This seems more important than ever given the stress and challenges COVID-19 has brought to our lives. Besides, Netflix only has a finite number of shows, and it’s wise to balance the binge watching with some invigorating fresh air fun.
The easiest and most accessible activity for most people is walking or hiking. Fortunately in Orillia, we have the Lightfoot Trail system which runs 15 kilometres along the northeast end of the city. The 9.5 km portion that is paved is known as the Millennium Trail, which connects our beautiful major parks and is a segment of the Trans Canada Trail system. All you’ll require is some warm apparel. Optional equipment could be Nordic walking poles to enhance physical output (the added arm movement increases heart rate) or added grip tracks on the soles of your boots to prevent slipping. Both options offer added stability.
Snowshoeing is a slight progression from walking but appropriate for all fitness levels. Snowshoes allow you to trek over deeper snow without sinking. Again, if you use poles, you’ll benefit from greater balance and the arm pumping boosts circulation, which helps keep you warm. Tudhope Park and the Leacock property are lovely scenic areas to explore.
Ice skating can be great fun if you have the equipment, and given we are the city of twin lakes, there is always potential for a natural local rink. Bass Lake is known to have a smooth surface accessible along Line 15. Just be sure to stay close to shore and bring a shovel to help with snow clearing. Always pay attention to public advisories from local authorities regarding ice safety.
Now for a less conventional idea: snowga. Simply put, it’s the practice of yoga done in the snow. A uniquely fun activity suitable for any fitness level. All that is required is snow, an open mind and a playful spirit. Snow pants aren’t a bad idea as they’ll keep you warm and allow you to enjoy a more uninhibited experience- think back to when you were a child taking delight playing in the magical white stuff. Sunrise Yoga Studio will be offering two snowga experiences, Feb 20th and 28th, 1pm at the Leacock property to raise money for The Sharing Place Food Centre. This 6th annual karma event (any cash donation to participate) continues to grow in popularity although due to the current restrictions on public gatherings, it might look a little different this year. If the lock down does not lift by the proposed dates, it will be run virtually so those interested can still participate from their own back yards. For more information and to register, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Hopefully these ideas will motivate you to celebrate our winter wonderland safely and as much as possible, sustainably, in the great outdoors. And remember, keep your face always toward the sunshine, and the shadows will fall behind you.
GET HAPPY, STAY HAPPY
“I have decided to be happy because it is good for my health.” (Voltaire)
As greetings of Happy New Year fade, let’s take a moment to explore what happiness can mean and how it relates to realizing a healthier life-style and ultimately a healthier planet. The point of this message is regardless of our circumstances we can be happy, or happier, and there are some straightforward ways to achieve that goal or state – for ourselves, for the people we love and for the planet.
Action for Happiness is an organization dedicated to promoting happiness. They provide friendly tools and tips to help realize greater happiness. Their guidebook, Ten Keys to Happier Living is available free and lays out the following ten factors:
- Give – do things for others
- Relate – connect with people
- Exercise – take care of your body
- Awareness – live life mindfully
- Trying Out – keep learning new things
- Dream – have goals to look forward to
- Resilience – find ways to bounce back
- Emotions – look for what’s good
- Acceptance – be comfortable with who you are
- Meaning – be part of something bigger
Each principle merits consideration and readers are encouraged to go to Action for Happiness’s website to get more information on how to challenge and reward ourselves every day in the pursuit of happiness. From Sustainable Orillia’s perspective, happiness is a very sustainable goal as well. The ten factors listed above are all eco–friendly, and relate directly or indirectly to improving the quality of life and the sustainability of our environment. Let’s explore three of them a bit more to reinforce that correlation.
Awareness. Challenging ourselves to make small changes takes mindfulness and ultimately leads to higher levels of satisfaction with ourselves and the contributions we are making. Mindfulness has become better understood over the past few years. We are becoming more aware of our intent and the effect our actions have on others and our environment. Increasingly we ask ourselves a version of this question is this action going to move us closer to sustainability, or further away?
Trying Out. Nothing is more stimulating than continuous learning and development. At Sustainable Orillia we consistently encourage interested readers to try new behaviors, to take those small steps that will move us towards greater sustainability. Equally important, there is no better time than now, while we are being asked to stay in our homes, to learn more about climate change and what each of us can do to help avert the looming crisis.
Meaning. We are already part of something bigger; as members of this community and of this planet. Most of us have children, or at a minimum we know some children that we like, and that’s all the criteria you need to be part of this global movement to raise awareness and change behaviors that will do nothing less than save this planet for those children and all the children who follow.
Along with the other seven factors we realize that happiness isn’t a goal in and of itself; nor is it measured in money, position or possessions. Rather, it is the by-product of participating with our families, our neighbours and community in the pursuit of collective, sustained well-being; a goal that translates into a greener, more sustainable and happier life for us all.
Our thanks to the Action for Happiness for the use of their materials.
A QUIZ, PART 4, THE ANSWER MY FRIEND IS…
To reduce our impact on the climate and avert disaster, it’s going to take more than ditching single-use plastic, eating less meat and planting more trees. The most effective ways that individuals, policymakers and businesses can reduce our carbon footprint might surprise you.
Let’s see how much you know about the climate consequences of generating electricity in Orillia and across the world. The group Project Drawdown has ranked the most effective climate change solutions. Which ones do you think would have the biggest effect on curbing climate change.
- Invest in nuclear power
- Capture the power of the waves
- Build solar farms
- Harness wind energy on land
Here’s how Project Drawdown ranks the choices:
1. Harness wind energy on land
2. Build solar farms (just over 40% as effective as #1)
3. Invest in nuclear power (20% as effective as #1)
4. Capture the power of the waves (10% as effective as #1)
Orillia is blessed with an abundant supply of water power, but much of the world isn’t so lucky. Wind farms can be built quickly, and the land they sit on can be used for farming or grazing simultaneously. Today, 314,000 wind turbines supply nearly 4% of global electricity, and soon it will be much more. While solar has potential as a dominant electricity source, Project Drawdown says investing in onshore wind farms offers the greatest reduction in CO2 emissions.
The wind industry is marked by a proliferation of turbines, dropping costs and better performance. In many locales, wind is either competitive with, or less expensive, than coal-generated electricity and it has no fuel costs or pollution. Ongoing cost reduction will soon make wind energy the least expensive source of electricity, perhaps within a decade.
Of course, the variable nature of wind means there are times when turbines are not turning. Wind energy, like other sources of energy, must be part of a larger system. Investment in 24/7 renewables such as geothermal, energy storage, transmission infrastructure, and distributed generation is essential.
Nuclear is often touted as a green electricity source, but its capacity to curb global warming pales in comparison to renewable sources. Currently, 29 countries operate nuclear plants. They produce about 11% of the world’s electricity. Nuclear is expensive, and the highly regulated industry is often over-budget and slow. While the cost of virtually every other form of energy has gone down over time, the cost of nuclear is four to eight times higher than it was four decades ago.
With nuclear power, there is a climate dilemma: Is an increase in the number of nuclear power plants, with all their flaws and inherent risks, worth the gamble? Or, as some proponents insist, will there be a total meltdown of climate by limiting their use?
A QUIZ, PART 3, THE MOST EFFECTIVE IS…
It will take more than fewer airplane flights to reduce our impact on the climate and avert disaster, The most effective ways individuals, policymakers and businesses can reduce our carbon footprint might surprise you.
Let’s see how much you know about the climate consequences of heating and cooling our homes in Orillia and across the world. The group Project Drawdown has ranked the most effective climate change solutions.
Rank these four solutions below according to which ones you think would have the biggest effect on curbing climate change.
- Install green roofs
- Use smart thermostats
- Switch to LED light bulbs
- Design more walkable cities
Here’s how Project Drawdown ranks the choices:
- Switch to LED lightbulbs – pretty effective
- Design more walkable cities – less than half as effective as #1
- Use smart thermostats – about one-third as effective as #1
- Install green roofs – one-tenth as effective as #1
Designing cities to prioritize walking helps cut emissions from driving, but according to Project Drawdown, some even more effective ways to reduce energy use can be found at your local hardware store.
What will we do in our own households and community to reduce our carbon footprint? We’ll have more quizzes in other categories in future Tips of the Week. from Sustainable Orillia.( thanks to Project Drawdown and Drew Kann, Will Houp, Judson Jones, and Sean O’Key)
RESOLVED – YOU CAN ACT GREENER
If you’re like most of us, after the challenges of 2020 you definitely deserved to treat yourselves this past holiday season. We did that knowing with 2021 just around the corner better times are ahead and we have a clean slate to make and remake our annual New Year’s resolutions.
According to several surveys the top two resolutions made each year are to lose weight and exercise more. In a typical year (and admittedly New Year’s 2021 isn’t a typical year), over 60% of people make resolutions to eat healthier. Most of us take on the challenge with vigor and determination, encouraged by non-stop fitness, weight loss and low-calorie food advertisements filling the airwaves every January. Unfortunately, one’s resolve often flags and by month’s end most of us quietly go back to our old habits. Perhaps we can give our motivation a lift this year when we consider typical New Year resolutions can be more than about a healthier lifestyle, they can also be about creating a healthier planet. With only three simple resolutions, you will not only realize the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, but you’ll be doing it sustainably.
First – resolve to reduce meat in your diet, particularly red meat. Migrate to a more plant-based diet. We know that this can be a sore spot for many folks. More than a year ago Sustainable Orillia published a tip on how cutting back on red meat in our diets helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We got quite a reaction; some supportive, but to put it mildly, most were unenthusiastic.
Time to try again as acceptance plant-based diets are healthier, less expensive and better for the environment continues to rise. We aren’t suggesting that red meat be eliminated entirely from our diets, simply reduced. Given Canadians consume close to 77 pounds of red meat on average each year there is room to trim back. The recently updated Canada Food Guide emphasizes the benefits of plant-based food, and encourages Canadians to limit their red meat intake to non-processed and lean red meats. We believe this trend will continue and more Canadians will see health and environmental benefits, particularly now as food producers have substantially improved the choice and quality of consumer meat and protein alternatives.
Second – Resolve to leave your car at home more often. Walk, use your own power to get from one place to another. The more we resist using our car the healthier we and the world will be. Town planners call this movement, active transit and communities like Orillia are promoting it with more and improved bike lanes, nearby hiking trails and so on. Winter offers additional active transit options like snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing, two more human-powered means to get across town during winter. This resolution is accessible to most. All one needs are some good walking shoes or boots. Happily, these are activities we can pursue during COVID-19 with immediate benefits, including reduced road congestion and saving money on gas and parking.
Third – Resolve to start a vegetable garden. Not right now of course, but when you can and where you can in the spring. Kudos to those of you who already grow your own vegetables; as you already know, with the right conditions and care, a 6’ x 10’ backyard garden can yield up to 300 lbs of fresh, healthy mixed vegetables throughout the growing season. Keeping it tilled, weeded and harvested is a satisfying way to stay active. If you don’t have a back yard Orillia has several community gardens that you can look into. Barrels, window-boxes and ledges are another option for those of us with limited space inside or outside. As many of you know first-hand there is nothing like eating food you have grown from seed yourself – it’s satisfying and good for you in every way.
If we all adopted and followed through on just these three resolutions for 2021 there’s a good chance by the time 2022 rolls around most of us will be able move on from our traditional resolutions and focus on how to further a healthier quality of life while continuing to work towards a healthier planet. Happy New Year to all from Sustainable Orillia.
TAKE PLASTIC OUT OF PET CARE
Did you know that there are almost 6 million dogs and 8 million cats in Canada? We love our pets, but just like humans, caring for pets can generate a lot of plastic waste which ultimately ends up in landfills or oceans. It’s not a good thing, so here are a few tips to make your pet’s lifestyle more eco-friendly:
- Use stainless steel or ceramic bowls for food and water
- Look for bamboo kitty litter trays (or other natural materials) and forego plastic liners.
- Look for the increasing number of biodegradable kitty litter options coming onto the market that will make dealing with our cats’ waste gentler on the environment.
- Take a close look at the packaging for your dog or cat’s food. Some of those larger bags are not recyclable and we should give them a pass if possible. The best alternative is to find an open-bin supplier for your pet food and do away with single use packaging all together.
- Make or get a wooden dog house, instead of a metal or plastic cage,
- Look for toys made from natural materials, like bone, rubber or ropes
- Use biodegradable bags to pick up pet waste.
The eco-friendly disposal of pet waste is another area that deserves attention. According to the City of Orillia website, pet waste accounts for approximately 16% of collected waste in Orillia, the equivalent of about 380 cars. It’s currently not accepted in Orillia green bins, which places more responsibility on pet owners to find sustainable solutions for handling pet waste. Here are some options to sustainably dispose of pet waste.
HAVE A GREEN CHRISTMAS
For most this holiday season will be like no other we’ve experienced to date. As the holidays draw near, despite the ongoing presence of COVID-19 across our communities and the need to abide by public health guidelines, we are cheered by thoughts of those delicious, special meals we traditionally share with friends and family at this time of year – it will just be a little smaller group this year.
Unfortunately, the environmental crisis won’t be taking a holiday. However, with a little planning we can ensure that our holiday fare is as delicious as ever, with a sustainable touch.
Before sharing some practical tips, let’s talk about food waste on a more global level. As has been mentioned many times, food waste is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. World-wide, it is estimated that there are 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted each year, which in turn produces enormous amounts of carbon dioxide equivalents escaping into the atmosphere. This equates to approximately 8% of all annual green-house gas emissions every year. Given that close to one third of all the food produced never gets consumed it is a tragic reality that 800 million people world-wide experience hunger as an ongoing condition.
Although there is always more we can do, thankfully, here in Orillia we have dedicated community services helping to redistribute food that would otherwise go to waste. Organizations like The Sharing Place, The Lighthouse, Salvation Army and others join with Orillia businesses, service clubs, churches, families and individuals to ensure that we continue to reduce hunger in our community. A big thanks and shout-out to everyone who helps ensure greater food security in Orillia while avoiding unnecessary food waste.
With that in mind, as we approach one of the festive high points of the year, this is a good time not only to contribute to these important community services and to the families and folks they support, but also to double-down and pre-empt food waste before it happens.
Michael Pollan, best-selling author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma summarized his guidelines for a healthy, affordable diet which reduces food waste saying, “eat food, not too much and mostly plants.”
It’s a good, broad guideline for any time of the year, and particularly during the holiday season, when we can:
Plan ahead. Given the current public health guidelines, we are being asked to limit sharing our holiday meals with our immediate households – which for many of us will be a smaller group than normal. So if you are going to serve meat then this is the year to buy smaller cuts. Or opt for smaller selections of poultry or fish. Happily, turkeys are one of the greener choices we can make for an entrée, although you may want to try and source organically raised turkeys.
Plan for leftovers and make sure there’s room in your freezer come Christmas Day.
Challenge your creativity. Have fun and plan meals that use local produce and reduce meats on your menus as much as possible. Shop the farmers’ markets and do your best to avoid foods which have travelled halfway around the world as part of your menu.
Buy your trimmings in recyclable containers or packaging. Continue to avoid plastic wherever you can, purchase fruits and vegetables loose and bring your own reusable shopping bags when you go shopping.
If you can – compost. Vegetable peelings, coffee grounds and food scraps will pay dividends in your garden next spring.
These things will help reduce your carbon footprint, and ours, over this holiday season, so let’s make this 2020 holiday season, one of Good Will and not Landfill.
Best wishes to you all for a Happy and Green Holiday Season.
A QUIZ, PART 2, PERCEPTION VS. REALTIY
To reduce our effect on climate and avert disaster, it will take more than switching to high-efficiency light bulbs. the most effective ways individuals, policymakers and businesses can reduce our carbon footprint might surprise you.
Let’s see how much you know about the climate consequences of moving people and goods around our country and across the world.
The group Project Drawdown has ranked the most effective climate change solutions.
First, rank the four solutions below according to which ones you think have the biggest effect on curbing climate change.
- Fly less and on fuel-saving planes
- Drive an electric car
- Invest in high-speed trains
- Ship goods more efficiently
Here’s how Project Drawdown ranks the choices.
- Drive an electric car
- Ship goods more efficiently
- Fly less … and on fuel-saving planes
- Invest in high-speed trains
Planes and ships crisscrossing the globe use a lot of energy, and adopting more efficient shipping practices and flying fuel-saving planes would keep a lot of CO2 out of the atmosphere, but if more people started driving electric vehicles it would cut carbon emissions even more.
According to Project Drawdown’s analysis if just 16% of the miles we drive were traveled in an electric-powered vehicle instead of a gas powered one, it could keep 10 gigatons of carbon emissions out of the air.
What can we do at home and in the community to take more internal combustion engine cars off the road, to source our goods from closer to home, or travel fewer kilometres?
WINTER – YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET SALTY ABOUT IT
Without question, winter salt helps keep roads, parking lots, and pathways clear of snow and ice. However, as populations, traffic, and infrastructure grow, so does our reliance on salt, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.
It is possible to stay safe this winter and minimize the effect of salt on the environment.
While salt can make winter safer, it’s only part of the answer. Here are some other ways to protect yourself from slips and falls:
- Wear sturdy footwear designed for snow and ice. Boots should have a good tread for traction with low and wide heels. Check out this handy guide for buying proper winter footwear.
- Use snow tires. They do make a real and measurable difference.
- Slow down on the road. Give yourself extra time to arrive at your destination. Drive for the conditions and make sure you give plow drivers plenty of space to do their work.
- Use a traction aid like kitty litter or sand to reduce the potential to slip. Keep some in your car for emergencies if you get stuck.
To keep your driveway and sidewalk clear of snow and ice:
- Shovel first. When you remove snow and ice by shoveling, you’ll need less salt and it can be more effective. Get out there as early as you can and keep up with storms. You may even decide that salt isn’t needed.
- For icy patches use a traction aid like kitty litter or sand to reduce the potential to slip. Sprinkle de-icing material on icy areas only, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for working temperatures and application rates. Give de-icing material time to do its work.
- Prevent icy buildups by redirecting downspouts away from walkways and driveways. Shovel unsalted snow to lower areas or onto lawns to direct melting snow away from paved areas.
- If hiring a snow removal contractor to clear driveways or lots, use certified contractors trained in reducing salt use while maximizing effectiveness and safety.
Sodium levels are already high in Lake Couchiching raw water. Winter road salt just adds to it. Let’s do our part.
A QUIZ: PERCEPTION VS. REALITY
The planet is barreling toward 1.5 degrees of global warming as soon as 2030 unless we enact “unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” a United Nations report has warned.
To reduce our impact on the climate and avert disaster will take more than switching to high-efficiency light bulbs and the most effective ways individuals, policymakers and businesses can reduce our carbon footprint might surprise you.
Let’s see how much you know about what can be done to fight climate change. Which of the following actions with regard to our food do you think would have the biggest effect on curbing climate change?
- Compost waste
- Eat a plant-heavy diet
- Cook over clean stoves
- Throw away less food
- Throwing away less food is similar to taking 511 cars off the road
- Eating a plant-heavy diet is similar to taking 479 cars off the road
- Cooking over clean stoves is similar to taking 115 cars off the road
- Composting waste is similar to taking 16.5 cars off the road
What else can we do within our own households to take more cars off the road? We’ll have more quizzes in other categories in future tips from Sustainable Orillia.
In post-pandemic Orillia, some workers will be seeking opportunities in a different and likely more competitive job market. In addition, over time, advances in artificial intelligence are destined to replace many traditional jobs. Could this new transformed work environment present opportunities to test a four-day work week?
Over the centuries, work practices have changed dramatically from slavery and child labour to 12-hour days and seven-day workweeks to our current system, which itself is a relic of the 20th century. The standard five-day workweek was implemented after the Second World War. Now another shift is on the horizon.
Europe, Australia and New Zealand are ahead of North America in offering four-day workweeks. Where these have been implemented, employees report their lives have improved. They have time to rest, pursue other interests, explore nature, volunteer, enjoy the company of family and friends, and much more. “Life isn’t about making more money so we can keep buying more stuff; it’s about having time to do things that enrich our lives… rather than endlessly chasing a consumerist dream based on the illusory premise that a finite planet can support endless growth,” David Suzuki said.
There is evidence to suggest that four-day workweeks are good for both employers and employees, boosting employment levels and increasing performance and motivation. Reduced work hours, flexible schedules and telecommuting can also cut pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The state of Utah gave government workers a four-day workweek from 2007 to 2011 (it was ended by a change in government) and concluded it saved $1.8 million in energy costs in the first 10 months and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by about 10,900 tonnes a year.
During the pandemic, many people have worked from home, often with flexible schedules, and learned to use technology for meetings and communication. Many say that they want to continue the practice post-pandemic.
Liz Supinski of the Society for Human Resource Management said, “we do anecdotally see more organizations interested in having the conversation to understand how it works,” although she concedes it doesn’t suit every work situation. Employers must have serious logistics in place, be able to respond to customers and still compete.
For example, customer-facing retail and hospitality job fields aren’t well suited to four-day workweeks and other flexible work-hour arrangements. “People expect the doors to be open all the time and to be able to go to the restaurant whenever they want,” Supinski said. “It’s not that flexible initiatives can’t be done; it gets more complex.”
However, she also said, “retention is the number one priority for employers,” and “generally speaking, work-flex variations are one of the least expensive ways to make employees happier.”
Employees should not be afraid to raise the issue of a four-day workweek with their boss. Research indicates that companies get productivity improvements and see fewer sick days. Employees should approach their boss with the economic argument, not just with the work-life balance argument.
Will private businesses in Orillia consider this shift? Will the City of Orillia? With many searching for a new and better normal once the pandemic is under control, the four-day workweek could be part of the life to follow.
IS SINGLE USE PLASTIC BAN ENOUGH?
The Canadian government recently announced it intends to ban plastic bags and other single-use plastics across Canada by the end of 2021. The ban includes straws, drink stirrers, six-pack soda can rings, utensils, and food containers. This ban is part of Canada’s commitment to achieving zero plastic waste by 2030.
“Plastic pollution threatens our natural environment. It fills our rivers or lakes, and most particularly our oceans, choking the wildlife that lives there. Canadians see the impact that pollution has from coast to coast,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change. The Canadian government has estimated that three million tons of plastic are wasted each year, and of this only nine percent is recycled. This is “the equivalent of 570 garbage bags full of plastic every minute, every day.”
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that this ban is totally inadequate if we are concerned about the health of the planet, of its oceans, and of the human population.
While it is understandable the government would give businesses and industry the opportunity to adjust to the banning of these materials, one has to wonder at the timidity of this first move.
Where, for example, is the ban on single-use water bottles? In Canada, estimates show, we consume two billion water bottles per year—about 5.3 million per day—and about 22 million pounds of plastic makes its way into the Great Lakes every year.
Does the ban include Keurig single-use coffee pods? Tim Horton takeout coffee cups? The plastic wrap around two peppers at the grocery store? The plastic wrap around single cookies or a piece of brownie for sale at your neighbourhood convenience store? The plastic containers around olives, blueberries, strawberries and many other fresh fruits and vegetables?
Take a look around you right now at your place of business or in your kitchen.
Notice how dependent we have become on plastic of all kinds. Records show in 2016 plastic companies produced 335 million metric tonnes of plastic, 50% of which went to single uses. It is likely the number has increased each year since.
We also now know that one of the ingredients of plastic, bisphenol A (or BPA), is harmful to humans in a variety of ways. We know that plastic can be found in each and every one of us, and many of us are adding more to our bodies every time we drink from a plastic bottle or eat from a plastic takeout tray.
By 2030, says the Canadian government? Should we wait that long? What can each of us do? First of all, take action for yourself. We tend to use plastic daily without really thinking about it. Think about it today – and every day. Find ways to live without single use plastics.
And speak up. Is your grocery store wrapping ever more veggies in plastic? Using more and more bags and plastic containers for the fruits on the shelves? Let the management know that you’re not impressed with their disdain for the planet – not to mention the health of their customers (that BPA, you know).
There is good reason to believe our planet and the living things on it, our lakes, oceans and us will eventually drown in plastic if we don’t start taking steps to end its use.