We are delighted to welcome our first guest blogger (of many to come we hope) – Eileen Silver. Welcome, Eileen!
Tu BiShevat – The Jewish Holiday of Trees
by Eileen Silver
Many thanks to Catherine and Lucia for asking me to contribute to their thoughtful and insightful “tree blog”. When Catherine first told me about the blog, I was amazed at the plethora of ideas she and Lucia had amassed for potential blog topics. One topic that I was pretty sure they had not considered though, was the upcoming Jewish holiday of Tu BiShevat, also known as the Jewish new year for trees. No joke! The Jewish people have many celebrations and holidays, and a holiday celebrating trees is indeed an annual event.
So what exactly is Tu BiShevat, and how is it celebrated? Tu BiShevat gets its name from the date on which the holiday occurs, the 15th of Shevat. “Tu” being the Hebrew numerological value for 15, and “Shevat” being the month in the Hebrew calendar that generally coincides with January/February of the civil calendar. This year, Tu BiShevat will begin at sunset on February 10th and end in the evening of February 11th.
In ancient times, Tu BiShevat represented a time of the year in the agricultural cycle in which the Jewish people brought their first-fruit offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem. Produce from fourth-year fruit trees were brought to the Temple in Jerusalem as “first-fruit” offerings, since Jewish law (Torah) forbids Jews from eating the fruit of new trees for three years after they are planted. According to the Torah (Leviticus 19:23-25), the fourth year’s fruit is to be “tithed” (given as a form of offering to God). Tu BiShevat is counted as the birthday for all trees for tithing purposes.
With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the pioneers of the country seized on Tu BiShevat as a day to promote tree-planting efforts in Israel. Particularly in the early decades of the establishment of the State, it was customary for citizens of Israel, as well as Jewish people throughout the Diaspora, to observe Tu BiShevat by planting trees in Israel, or collecting money towards planting trees in Israel.
In modern times, and particularly over the past few decades, Tu BiShevat has increasingly been viewed as an appropriate occasion for Jews to focus on ecological education and caring for the environment, often through teaching of Jewish sources and celebrating nature. For many, Tu BiShevat has developed into an ecological holiday that reminds Jews of their connection to the earth and to their role as caretakers of the environment.
And what would a Jewish holiday be without a celebration of food? It is customary on Tu BiShevat for Jews to eat fruits, particularly fruits associated with Israel. The seven species of “fruits” that are endemic to the Land of Israel are often eaten on Tu BiShevat. They are: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.
It is also customary for Jews to try and eat a new fruit on Tu BiShevat, which can be any seasonal fruit that they have not tasted during the year. I generally associate eating carob (boxer, St-John’s -bread) with Tu BiShevat, as it is a fruit grown in Israel that many people eat during the holiday.
Centuries old, the holiday of Tu BiShevat could not be more relevant today! So, whether you practice Judaism or not, as February 10-11 approaches, think about “the holiday of the trees”, and consider doing something special for the environment…. plant a tree, increase your recycling efforts, be mindful about using reusable products rather than single use paper products.
Happy Tu BiShevat to all!
Thank you, Eileen and we wish you “Chag Sameach” (Happy Holiday)!
Good News Story from Sudbury, Ontario
Thank you to reader, Jean, for sharing this good news story about her home town, Sudbury. She (and we) are excited to learn from this Chatham News article about the success that four decades of regreening efforts are yielding now, as evidenced by the return of the “mighty lake trout” to the local habitat.
As regreening program supervisor, Tina McCaffey notes, “We hear all the time – especially through social media – of areas around the world where species are lost and habitats are destroyed…Sudbury is an example to the world of what can be done…It is only in the last few decades – and owing primarily to advancements in mining technology and their cleaner practices – that lake trout have returned to the lakes of the Nickel City…” Read the full story on Sudbury’s sucessful biodiversity action plan at: https://bit.ly/2vhQCRz.
We look forward to welcoming our second guest blogger next week, who will share his family’s experience with installing a solar panel roof.
January may seem like an odd time of the year to be thinking and blogging about memorial tree planting, especially when most of Canada seems to be digging itself out from this week’s winter snow storms. What better time than now, however, to be uplifted by thoughts of Spring, renewal, and spring planting, ahead!
The reasons and ways in which to remember and pay tribute to ones we have lost in our lives are countless. Tree tributes offer but one such opportunity to honour the loss of a loved one, or, perhaps to recognize someone we may not have known personally but for whom we owe a debt of gratitude for having made the ultimate sacrifice, as one of Canada’s fallen heroes.
(The sites and organizations we profile below are for our Readers’ information, and not endorsements, as such.)
BC’s Heritage Gardens Cemetery expresses eloquently why tree planting might offer a special kind of memorial – “Trees are symbolic of the cyclical nature of life. As the seasons change, so do our relationships with those we love. There is no change more personal than the loss of a loved one; it marks the end of their earthly journey, and the beginning of your relationship with their memory. Planting a tree for them is a beautiful way to reflect the significance of their values, or to acknowledge their impact on your life…”
Their website also explains how it works, with illustrating costs, “…At Heritage Gardens we have two gardens allocated for memorial trees and tree burials. Cremated remains may be buried in a bio-degradable vessel, or scattered and mixed into the soil. Depending on your preference, the place may be acknowledged with a memorial tree or plant, type and species of which vary. Basalt columns throughout the grounds will pay lasting tribute to those laid to rest in our gardens and green burial areas. Alternatively, families are welcome to purchase a marker to be placed in front of their memorial plant or tree. The right of interment for the garden costs $650 for scattering or $900 for an urn burial. Trees range in cost depending on size and species. Plants typically range from $55-$85. https://bit.ly/2NEmOVR
Toronto Tree Planting Opportunities
The City of Toronto offers a number of tree-related opportunities for volunteering and/or to plant a commemorative tree. Their website also offers useful lists of trees suitable to the local habitat that might help gardeners plan for their own tree planting, in sunny or shady locations for example.
Typically the City of Toronto has two application windows for its commemorative tree planting program, Spring and Fall. While it is not yet taking applications for Spring 2020, here is the link to the application form in case Readers may want to start planning ahead and saving up: https://bit.ly/30yBk6N
The website states that the application fee is $738 and the donation is tax deductible. The form asks for 1st and 2nd choice of commemorative park location, 1st and 2nd choice of tree, and requested plaque wording of 120 characters maximum.
Here is the list of 12 trees native to southern Ontario that are available for selection https://bit.ly/2NGWxWS.
The City of Toronto also invites volunteer participation to help it reach its goal of a 40% tree canopy, through street tree planting, tree planting and stewardship volunteering, Don Valley Brick Works Ambassador volunteering (May to September), and, Natural Environment Trails volunteer opportunities (May to September). More information is available by subscribing to their mailing list at: https://bit.ly/2R5AJpQ. For gardeners’ information, here is their list of trees that are native to Toronto’s habitat, https://bit.ly/2NFX23A, such as Full Shade trees like Black oak and White pine, and Partial Shade-Shade trees like the Sugar Maple and Maple-leaf Viburnum.
One final opportunity for tree gifting to consider in Toronto, is the University of Toronto’s Landmark Tree Project campaign. Its website states, “Trees contribute to cleaner soil, air and water, and provide vital cooling and shading during summer months. They also improve biodiversity by attracting a greater variety of birds, insects and animals. The Landmark Project adds more than 180 new trees to the Front Campus and areas surrounding King’s College Circle. Join us in making the St. George campus greener and more beautiful by planting a tree.” https://bit.ly/2uakrDl
Other Tree Memorial Options Across Canada
We look forward to being able to profile commemorative tree planting opportunities in the City of Edmonton in future, once it has completed its program review.
Across Canada, Tree Canada, which we have profiled in the past, also offers memorial tree options as part of its National Greening Program. The program is aimed at reforestation and afforestation in areas of need in five regions across the country. A certificate in memory is issued to donors for each $29 memorial tree donation, https://bit.ly/2NHB2VX.
Thanks to our Readers for pointing out two other tree memorial options across Canada:
This site profiles its list of 77+ best places for memorial benches and trees in these provinces across Canada – Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
“A Living Tribute was created in 2012 to connect people looking to have trees planted as living memorials or gifts with national reforestation projects. As our goal is to make the world greener through environmental gift giving, every commemorative card that we send out is sustainably sourced, acid-free, REC-Certified and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified.”
This organization offers tree planting options in Fort McMurray, Alberta; British Columbia; Ontario; Manitoba; Quebec; New Brunswick; Saskatchewan; and the Boreal Forest.
On the topic of the Boreal Forests, did you know they are very efficient as a carbon sink? We learned from this New York Times article, https://bit.ly/365H09u that, “The boreal forests surround the world just below the Arctic Circle, extending through Canada, Alaska, Siberia, and northern Europe. Together they form a giant reservoir that stores carbon dioxide. The boreal forests are different from the tropical forests, closer to the equator. The boreal forests contain about 703 gigatons of carbon in woody fibers and earth, while tropical forest store about 375 gigatons.” (A gigaton is a bit difficult to describe, but it is a lot.) However, these are difficult times for the world’s forests. Think of the fires in Australia and those of last year in the Amazon. Agriculture, logging and urbanization are also taking their toll.
Highway of Heroes
Thank you to Reader Nora for bringing to light this special Memorial Tree Planting Campaign. The Highway of Heroes Two Million Tree campaign has as its mission to, “Honour our Military, Protect the Environment, and Beautify North America’s Most Travelled Highway.” In doing so, it aims to build “the world’s largest living memorial, together.”
Here is part of the moving tribute posted on their website, outlining what inspires this memorial tribute, created initially in 2014, and evolving in 2016 to the two million tree campaign with the inaugural tree planting actions of Corporal Nick Kerr and project co-founder Mark Cullen, “….When a member of Canada’s Armed Forces falls in combat, his or her final journey is along the Highway of Heroes from CFB Trenton to the Coroner’s Office in Toronto.
“We are planting 2 million trees for all Canadians that have served during times of conflict since Confederation and including the war of 1812. 117,000 of the most prominent trees will be planted along and near the stretch of the 401 known as the Highway of Heroes, one tree for every life lost while serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.
“As Canadians we’re proud of our values that guide us to respect green spaces and wilderness, yet too few of us realize we have the highest carbon footprint per capita in the world. We can and will do better.
“They have fought to protect our land and our freedom. It is now our collective duty to protect what they’ve fought for.”
The Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign is a Fund of the Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation. It is a Registered Charity https://bit.ly/38fBfY6.
Golden Globe Awards and Wild Fires in Australia and Reforestation
We were pleased at the shout out to global warming given recently by so many actors at the Golden Globes Awards ceremony. Several mentioned the ongoing fires in Australia as another sign of global warming and encouraged fellow actors to donate to Australia and consider changing their personal habits, such as by not flying in their personal jets to awards ceremonies.
The Golden Globes ceremony also served a plant-based meal for the first time.
Here is an article about 15 of the celebrities who donated generously to help Australia Fire Services. “…Australia is currently being ravaged by bushfires that spread across the country as the regular bushfire season took an unexpected and severe turn. Unfortunately, so far an estimated 8.4 million hectares (21 million acres; 84,000 square kilometres; 32,000 square miles) were lost to flames, alongside 2,500 buildings (including over 1,900 houses). The fires took lives of 25 people (as of 5 January 2020) and there are more gruesome losses of life as it is feared that an estimated billion animals were killed or will die due to starvation and loss of habitat caused by the flames.” https://bit.ly/2RAit72
If Readers have been thinking about how they might donate to support Australians and Australian habitats to recover from this disaster, here are two options (among many worthy initiatives underway), for information and consideration:
OneTreePlanted is offering a limited edition “I Love Australia” T-Shirt for $15 tree planting donations in aid of Australian reforestation at: https://bit.ly/2TDxp6Z.
The Canadian Red Cross has established a specific Australia Fires Appeal, with the stated commitment that “…the fundraising costs related to any emergency appeal will not exceed five percent.” https://bit.ly/2R8Qexf
World Economic Forum – January 21-24, 2020
We will be watching the news intently this week for coverage of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2020 being held January 21-24 in Davos, Switzerland. The theme of this 50th edition of the WEF is “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World,” and the Forum will be calling upon companies “to raise their ambitions for climate action.” The annual forum brings together political leaders and business leaders from around the world, with over 3,000 participants attending. 2020 is the fourth year where the meeting will be carbon-neutral.
This 2 minute BBC clip outlines what to expect from Davos this year, noting that the top five risks to be presented and discussed are all environmental (e.g., climate change, biodiversity, extreme weather) https://bbc.in/30F8LEv.
The Global Agenda and a suite of informative and interesting briefs may be accessed here https://bit.ly/2RajlQO.
Here is the link to chapter four – “A Decade Left: Confronting Runaway Climate Threat” – in the Global Risks report that informs the discussions https://bit.ly/36byxl7. A sobering read. More on this and the WEF meeting in in future.
Good News Story for the Week
We end today’s blog post with a climate action good news story from Thunder Bay.
We find their approach to be incredibly comprehensive as they have hired the company EarthCare to help them meet this goal. You can spend all day in the city’s website https://bit.ly/2NCVjf1, and at EarthCare Thunder Bay’s website at https://bit.ly/2G2nHD9, opening all the informative links. We encourage you to peruse them. Sudbury is also using this company to meet the same targets. We are encouraged to see these commitments at the local level and hopeful evidence that indeed meaningful change is beginning to happen and become embedded in mainstream practice.
One little video on the site compares the carbon footprint of an electric car versus a gas car. Basically, you can cut your carbon footprint in half driving an electric car and as time goes on and Canada uses more clean energy, the electric car will become even more favourable. We also found a section on podcasts on the website, and that interested Lucia, who shares 6 podcasts here:
2050: Degrees of Change
WTF with Marc Maron.
She was impressed with how professionally these podcasts are done and says she learned a lot while walking indoors to deal with Edmonton’s very cold weather. Ahh, the joys of wintertime in Canada!
We both love CBC’s What on Earth? e-newsletter – have you signed up for your free weekly copy yet? This week’s article on electric bikes (e-bikes) as a viable option for going car-free and emissions-free has us thinking….and looking forward to the possibilities that Spring will bring, including warmer bike- and human-friendly weather! https://bit.ly/38mTpaA
Next week, we look forward with excitement to welcoming and introducting our very first guest blogger.
We were so excited to profile this Canadian innovation story that one reader shared with us, that we changed the topic originally planned for this week. (The Tree Tributes post will now follow on January 23.)
At the start of our blogging adventure we shared the research evidence on how tree planting is one of the most impactful actions that citizens and government can do to slow global warming.
As a world research first, Thomas Crowther et al calculated how many trees are in the world – three trillion – how many more trees could be planted – one trillion – and what the impact of planting new trees on such a scale would be – planting one trillion trees would be sufficient to slow overall global warming to within the 1.5C to 2C maximum rise that scientists advise as necessary if humans want to avert catastrophic and irreversible climate changes that threaten our species’ survival.
These scientists computed that the “lung” capacity of planting new trees on such a scale, in terms of “sinking” harmful carbon dioxide and converting it to clean, life sustaining oxygen, would be equivalent to offsetting all the harmful carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels over the past 25 years. That’s the good news on tree planting to slow global warming. This message seems to be landing on “fertile” ground and capturing the imagination of youthful entrepreneurs in Canada – more about these inspiring Canadian citizens in just a “flash”.
Photo by Julie Tauber
Two more pieces of Canadian good news on the tree front – as a country, we have more capacity than most for land and environment suitable for tree planting and growth, and, our federal government has recently affirmed the commitment to plant two billion trees over ten years as part of Canada’s climate action plan. (Details yet to be released, however.)
Canadian Drone Plants Trees
Tree planting in actual practice is slow, hard, labour-intensive work. Until now. Thanks to our Reader Edmund, we are so excited to learn about this Canadian drone innovation by Canadian start-up Flash Forest – https://flashforest.ca/.
Flash Forest states the following as its mission: “Automate. The timber industry has engineered and mastered efficient harvesting technologies, capable of quick clearing with minimal human involvement. Tree planting, on the other hand, still operates with bags and shovels. We can change that. Flash Forest is a reforestation company that can plant at 10 times the normal rate and at 20% of the cost of traditional tree planting techniques. With drone engineering, we bring new levels of accuracy, precision and speed to the reforestation industry. Our goal is to plant one billion trees by the year 2028.”
Here’s what motivates their mission: “Why Automate? According to the International Panel on Climate Change, we have 10 years to reverse climate change and prevent catastrophic run-away effects on our species and civilization. In 2018, 34 billion tons of CO2 was released by humans. This has been increasing since pre-industrial times and surpasses the earth’s natural ability to absorb it. Planting trees is currently the fastest and cheapest way today to sequester carbon. The average tree absorbs 40 lbs of C02 per year. With billions of trees planted each year we can effectively reverse our impact.”
By comparison, here is an instructive 6-minute video called Roots by One Tree Planted on what traditional methods of tree planting look like – still impressive and the main way it is done so far, at the back breaking rate of 1000 tree saplings per day per planter – https://bit.ly/2TldFoS.
Flash Forest’s website shows their drone technology pilot testing results to back their claims that they can improve the tree planting rate by a factor of ten, while reducing costs significantly (20% of the cost compared to traditional methods).
One helpful tree graph also seems to imply the answer to a question we and some Readers have been wondering about – are there certain trees that are best for Canada? Fast Forest is focusing on planting White Spruce, White Pine, Blue Spruce, Red Maple, White Birch, Sugar Maple, Douglas Fir, Balsam Fir.
If anyone is or knows a Soil Ecologist or Botanist, Fast Forest is looking for partner volunteers with these areas of expertise to add to their team.
This is not an endorsement, and as always, we encourage our Readers to do their own due diligence if planning on purchases, donations, investments or, volunteering. Based on their own website disclosure, Fast Forest is garnering a lot of media attention lately, which may be of interest at https://flashforest.ca/press.
Finally, to see what Canadian Tree Planting Drones look like in action in Creemore, Ontario – pretty cool we think – here is the short two-minute YouTube video by Flash Forest that inspired this blog post! https://bit.ly/3836wh2
Canadians Building a Zero-Emission Concept Car
Trees are a critical part of the equation for carbon capture. Thank you, Trees! Human behaviour shifts, however, hold the key to success for reversing the upward global warming trajectory we remain stubbornly on and for overall success in combatting climate change.
Reducing our reliance on Green House Gas (GHG) emitting fossil fuels for energy, changing our energy consumption practices, including shifting to alternative “clean energy” options, are all important parts of the way forward to a healthier, viable Planet Earth. We wanted to end today’s blog post with one more piece of Innovation good news from Canada about zero-emission electric vehicles.
Thanks to CBC News for putting this story about Project Arrow on our radar. Project Arrow is a new project launched last week by the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA), in an effort to “demonstrate the strength of the Canadian automotive sector,” by “building a zero-emission concept car entirely designed and made in Canada..” The full article is available at: https://bit.ly/2RaTYxc.
Just how big is the market for electric vehicles (EVs) in Canada we wondered? Bigger than we guessed, though not yet fully realized, according to statistics offered in this February 2019 article, also by the CBC. Apparently, “one in 11 new cars being sold is considered an EV”, and, “more than 11 million Canadians drive to work or a (EV) transit hub every weekday. The article outlines four factors that act currently as barriers to more Canadians switching over to EVs: cost to buy, EV battery range, limited recharging stations, and, time to recharge. https://bit.ly/35JY9oN.
Fortunately, progress toward better access to significantly more EV recharging stations may soon be made in at least one Canadian city we hope, if the recommendations in the December 2019 Dunsky Energy Consulting report – “City of Toronto Electric Vehicle Strategy: Supporting the City in Achieving its TransformTO Transportation Costs,” are adopted.
We learned about the report and some interesting Toronto EV facts thanks to this CP24 article, https://bit.ly/2Nm9hSm. For example, according to CP24’s highlights from the report, Toronto currently has 6300 electric vehicles registered, “representing about 0.6 per cent of all personal vehicles on city streets…..The strategy says that by 2025 the city should aim to have electric vehicles represent five per cent of all registered vehicles with that number rising to 20 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2040.” Transforming car travel in Toronto in such a way, would need to be supported by city investments in “at least 220 fast-charging ports in public locations by 2020 (up from 75 currently) and 650 by 2030…” To learn more, here is the full Dunsky EV report at: https://bit.ly/2t5j48O.
One closing thought from Norway on zero-emission vehicles, and how forward-thinking government policy and infrastructure investments are making a real difference in promoting and supporting rapid consumer behaviour changes. We subscribe to and recommend this informative CBC newsletter – What on Earth – which comes free by email to our inboxes each week. You can subscribe to What on Earth at: https://bit.ly/2uN8Uu1.
Thanks to What on Earth and a related CBC radio piece, we learned that in Norway last year about 60% of new car sales were electric, with customers on wait lists to buy more, thanks to government incentives that promote EV purchases. These incentives include: no delivery fees paid; no car taxes paid; free EV parking; no payment for charging stations; and EV drivers may use the HOV bus lane- https://bit.ly/383565U. A model worth considering here in Canada we think, and one we plan to ask our elected officials to be sure to investigate as part of improving and accelerating Canada’s climate action plan.
On January 13th, Catherine was delighted to see this billboard while waiting to catch the subway – tangible “signs” of positive climate action underway by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). “On A Mission to End Emissions” toward a “zero-emissions fleet by 2040.” Change is taking root!
Thank you for engaging with us in Friends4Trees4Life. We love hearing from our Readers and appreciate all your suggestions, questions, positivity and thoughtful volunteer research help! Please keep it coming. Next week’s blog post will be on Tree Tributes…we promise.
Thank you Readers for these additional book suggestions:
Trees: A Rooted History, by Piotr Socha and Wojciech Grajkowski, which Goodreads says is, “Part botany, part history, part cultural anthropology—Trees goes beyond the basics to tell readers everything they might want to know about this particular branch of the plant kingdom.
Trees explores the important roles trees play in our ecosystem, takes an up-close-and-personal look at the parts of trees (from roots to leaves), and unpacks the cultural impact of trees from classification systems (like family trees) to art forms (like bonsai trees). Looking forward, Trees also addresses the deforestation crisis. Heavily illustrated in the same style as Bees: A Honeyed History, Trees: A Rooted History serves as a beautifully packaged celebration of trees of all kinds.” https://bit.ly/301nAB8
The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success, by Simon Fraser University professor Mark Jaccard, is described by Amazon as, “Sometimes solving climate change seems impossibly complex, and it is hard to know what changes we all can and should make to help. This book offers hope. Drawing on the latest research, Mark Jaccard shows us how to recognize the absolutely essential actions (decarbonizing electricity and transport) and policies (regulations that phase out coal plants and gasoline vehicles, carbon tariffs). Rather than feeling paralyzed and pursuing ineffective efforts, we can all make a few key changes in our lifestyles to reduce emissions, to contribute to the urgently needed affordable energy transition in developed and developing countries. More importantly, Jaccard shows how to distinguish climate-sincere from insincere politicians and increase the chance of electing and sustaining these leaders in power. In combining the personal and the political, The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success offers a clear and simple strategic path to solving the greatest problem of our times.” https://amzn.to/2QZ0Y09
Thank you, Lucy for last week’s inspiring blog post on your New Year’s Resolutions and personal transformative change process to make a difference on climate change.
This is Catherine now, sharing my learning journey and change process, in the hopes that our Readers may find something of benefit in their own personal process.
Like Lucy, I would say that I too have become much more aware and mindful about how I go about my daily living since we both started this climate action learning and blog writing adventure together last October.
In contrast to Lucy’s holistic and transformative change process, I would characterize my process as a more emergent and evolving one. For example, I have not made specific climate action New Year’s resolutions nor do I have a long-term action plan mapped out as yet, in the way that Lucia has set out her 8% reduction plan per year. I am okay with this difference in approach to our shared goal. We both realize and respect that making a personal climate action plan is just that – it is very individualistic and personal, and depends on a wide array of factors, including the context and circumstances of each Reader’s life. I admire and am very proud of Lucy’s New Year’s resolutions. Her personal plan certainly gives me a model and much food for thought.
“Food for thought,” is a good transition place for me to start my narrative. Many who know me would know I am a bit of a foodie and that I love all things to do with food and cooking – the Food Network channel, cookbooks, food emporiums and markets, eating out, eating in, dining al fresco (the best!), spices, herbs, recipes, restaurants, aromas, take out, Winterlicious, Summerlicious, celebrations, experimenting, discovering new tastes (hurray for Bibimbap!) and favourite eating spots (delicious Barcelona and Florence), and best of all, the laughter and love that go together with cooking, baking and “breaking bread” together with family and friends. I look forward to many more of these special moments in my life going forward.
At the same time, I am learning about the huge carbon footprint that food waste (personal and commercial) creates. This represents a win-win opportunity for change, I feel, particularly for those of us who are fortunate to enjoy the bounty and richness of choice that is available to us in urban Canada. Reducing or avoiding for food waste is better for budgets, conscience and Planet Earth. Win-win-win. And, as with tree planting, this is a personal action that anyone can take right away and that has positive benefits in combatting global warming, among many other positive outcomes. Beyond purchasing tree saplings as carbon offsets as a regular part of my life now, it is where I am starting to change my behaviours most intentionally and with resolve, motivated by what I am learning for our blog.
Personally, I did not know the extent to which food waste is such a big contributor to carbon emissions and the climate change problem. I just never thought about it that much before, beyond composting and now adopting the practice of using re-usable produce and grocery bags, because I was so focused on the connection between non-renewable fuels as the main source of harmful carbon emissions when used as energy for manufacturing and transportation. This recent, “world-first” report by Canada’s Second Harvest has been an eye-opener for me about the food waste and climate change connection – The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste: Roadmap.
For example, the report* calculates that:
– every year, “56.5 MM tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions are created by food waste in Canada.”
– food waste and loss (FWL) is a staggering 58% (!) of all the food produced – 35.5 MM tonnes, of which 11.2 MM tonnes (or 32% of what is wasted and lost) could go to support communities across Canada, if rescued
– households account for 14% of total waste, more than the 9% generated by hotels, restaurants and institutions as a category, and less than the food waste created by food production (24%) and food processing (34%)
– the annual cost of avoidable food loss and waste in Canada is $1,766 per household (–just imagine having $1700 in extra fun money each year!)
– food waste in landfills creates methane gas which is “25 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.”
____________ (Footnote below)
*Nickel, L., Maguire, M, Gooch, M., Bucknell, D., LaPlain, D., Dent, B., Whitehead, P., Felfel, A. (2019). The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste: Roadmap; Second Harvest and Value Chain Management International; Ontario, Canada. Accessible from: www. SecondHarvest.ca/Research
Learning about the food waste and methane gas connection is a powerful motivator for me to up my game in terms of doing a much better job of menu planning, shopping and cooking to minimize food waste and loss as a clear goal (of course while also keeping to my ongoing goals of maximizing flavour, nutrition, creativity and enjoyment in my cooking.) The start of a New Year, after all the holiday abundance, seems like a perfect time to begin a more mindful approach to eating in general, with shrinking my carbon footprint (to say nothing of shrinking my waistline!) as an added dimension to healthful and pleasurable eating.
I am also noticing and wondering more about food packaging.
Why do cucumbers need to be covered in plastic wrap, for example? I am happiest in summer and fall when I can buy farm fresh local produce from my neighbourhood pop-up and carry these delicious sun-ripened fruits and vegetables home in their wooden baskets and cardboard containers, no plastic wrap involved. Now, in the winter months and motivated by what I am learning for our blog, I am opting for unpackaged produce where I can (e.g., loose mushrooms in brown paper bags vs pre-packaged plastic wrapped containers, loose peppers vs pre-packs) and appreciate that clementines come in wooden boxes. I appreciate and am using the re-usable mesh vegetable bags I received as holiday gifts. However, I found that fresh dill and parsley wilt when stored in them, and so for these herbs, I continue to use (and re-use) plastic bags for storage…sparingly now.
Lucy wrote about becoming vegetarian as part of her personal climate action plan. In one of our future blogs we will expand further on what the research says about how shifting to more plant-based diets helps to slow global warming. Becoming fully vegetarian is personally not an option for me for health reasons. However, regularly cooking more meatless meals each week works and already has been part of our household menu plan for some time. That said, I am always on the look out for fresh new delicious low-carbon footprint menu options to add to my repertoire – please feel free to share your favourite recipes and cookbooks :).
One of the biggest personal behaviour changes for me actually started with the decision to co-create this blog in the first place. By nature I am quite private and intentionally had opted out of using social media, wary as well about what seems to me to be still too casual an approach by platforms, providers, organizations and companies to data security and privacy. For these reasons, the fact that I am co-blogging here with Lucy, is a measure of how important I believe it is for me to take personal action on climate change and share what we are learning in the hopes that it may benefit and inspire others along their own journey. For me, jumping into the blogosphere felt momentous.
I am a heat-seeking person by nature. Like Lucy, this winter I too have been wearing more sweaters indoors as we now aim to reduce our household energy consumption, starting by keeping the thermostat between 18-20C this winter. Unlike Lucy, who looks cheery and happy in her new wool poncho, I really do not like being cold and am wearing my extra indoor layers grudgingly, and at times, grumpily. This is a personally challenging and sometimes uncomfortable shift for me to make – I do not particularly enjoy feeling un-relaxed and chilly in my own home. Change is a process and can be hard sometimes. (I do realize I am privileged to have this kind of change challenge.) I think I will have a much easier time in the summer when it comes to opting for more low-energy fan use and being a bit warmer (warm being the operative word!) vs. turning on the air conditioner. I am looking forward to learning more about solar panel energy options. I am inspired by what we learned earlier about the people of Eden Mills and their shared goal to become the first community in Canada to be carbon neutral. Solar panels and tree planting are part of their change story!
Living in Toronto probably makes it easier for me to use public transit and walking as my primary modes of transportation than it is for Lucy to make such a shift where she lives. While I enjoy bike riding as an activity, it is not a transportation mode that I personally feel safe using for getting around the city given our current limited system of dedicated bike lanes. So mostly I take the TTC or walk, about 95% of the time. I do still drive, though infrequently. These were my habits long before our blogging adventure, motivated by health and fitness primarily. So, I don’t claim these as climate action behaviour shifts, although now I have even more good reasons to keep on carrying on in this regard. I look forward to learning more from Lucy’s research into electric vehicles, including one hopes, the possibility of electric-powered airplanes in the near future. In the meantime, I am glad to have the option to purchase tree saplings as carbon offsets whenever I fly. Promising signs of industry shifts are beginning to emerge, such as EasyJet in Europe announcing its plans to be the first airline in the world to operate carbon net-zero flights.
It feels odd to tell Readers that I take short showers, but I do. Again, I can’t really claim this as a climate action positive; it is just my habit. Same thing with LED lights. Check. I am happy to know these help. I will think about Lucy’s big change to forgo using the clothes drier. Hmmm. It is very helpful to have the European average of 10.5T CO2 in mind as a reference point as I continue to examine my own carbon footprint more closely.
I do believe in the value and power of citizens speaking up – respectfully and constructively, with a compelling case – to influence the political change agenda. I plan on writing further letters to my elected representatives.
I am committed to our tree planting as positive personal action to slow global warming – all the more so as we witness the alarming devastation and loss of life, livelihoods, homes, forests and habitats caused by the wildfires raging in Australia.
On that note, thank you to our Reader Mary Ann for bringing to light this most inspiring award-winning 16-minute video, about the impact that one self-described “simple man” is making to offset flooding and erosion in India on Marjuli Island, by single-handedly planting trees since 1979, to transform a once-barren area into a forest that is now larger than Central Park. Amazing.
Happy New Year! A fresh new decade is upon us, and a chance to reflect and start anew. We have 2020 vision now.
Although Catherine and I have worked on this blog for only a few months, it has impacted us in ways that we did not expect, and has caused us to make personal changes to our lives for the sake of Mother Earth. With our blog we started out focused on planting trees and we both have bought trees for gifts, and to offset flights we are taking (using TreeCanada.ca carbon calculator). As well Lucy bought a tree for every small bracelet she sold in December. We have many more plans for tree events especially as the weather warms up.
We want to share the journey with you about the resolutions we are making for 2020. Change is never easy, but breaking it down into parts, and concrete bits, really helps. As two individuals with one blog, we have made different changes in our lives already, and so we appreciate and respect how individual this journey is for everyone. Lucy will post her plans for change this week , and Catherine will do the same next week.
This is Lucy writing. My goal in describing my personal life changes since starting this blog is hoping it might inspire any one or all of you to consider changes you might be able to make for the sake of protecting our planet. I have been personally moved by all the reading I am doing about climate change, about the importance of tree planting and about my own carbon footprint. I have described the personal impact of writing this blog to Catherine as being “life changing”. I no longer look at a purchase or action and think about how much it costs, or how much I like it. I think now about how much it impacts the environment. The good thing about this is I am anticipating having more cash in my pocket, because the ways to cool the earth mainly involve decreasing spending (or spending differently) and living smaller. I am thankful for the many environmentally conscious gifts I received at Christmas, like mesh reusable vegetable bags, bamboo tooth brushes, reusable straws, tree sapling donations, and used books.
My 2020 Resolutions to Reduce my Carbon Footprint by 8%
For 2020 I have decided to go vegetarian, although am debating still about whether to completely remove fish from my diet immediately. I have decided this year to keep the thermostat below 20 degrees (or in the hot weather, keeping it above 25 degrees) , and to not use the drier but hang all the clothes, (except sheets in the winter), and to take short showers, with fewer baths. I am conscious of buying only the things I need, like things that are worn out and need replacing. Buying used is basically guilt free. We have replaced all the lights in the Phoenix house with LED and will look to see which lights need changing in Edmonton. These steps alone I think will decrease my carbon footprint about 8-10% this year. If I decrease 8% every year for the next 8 years, I hope to cut my carbon footprint in half. In North America, the average carbon footprint is double that of Europeans. I am sure I am among the worst offenders since I drive a big car and have travelled a ton and I maintain two homes. I think the Europeans have an average carbon footprint of 10.5 T CO2 so I am aiming for that, as my carbon footprint is about double that based on calculations. It is more accurate to use a Canadian based calculator. Not all calculators include the community portion of our carbon footprint.
Also, looking at all this more globally, world wide emissions would need to start falling by 7.6% annually and continue at that rate for a decade in order for the world to have any chance of hitting the widely accepted targets for stopping global warming. So also setting a personal goal of about 8% reduction a year for 8-10 years seems generally a good thing to do. (Time Magazine December 23-30/2019)
How did I figure out my carbon footprint?
For the most part, I used myclimate.org carbon calculator which lists the following 7 categories in which you can rate your own behaviour. You can play around with the calculator to see how much of an impact changing your behaviour would be. That is what I did. Please consider giving it a try. These are their 7 categories and ranking choices:
MEANS OF TRANSPORT:
-I almost always go public transport, cycle or walk
-I use the car and public transport about the same amount
-I almost always use the car
-I never fly
-I fly maximum 2 short distance flights or one long distance flight every couple of years
-I fly one short distance and one long distance in a year
-I only eat vegetarian food
-I eat meat 2-3 times a week
-I eat meat almost every day-mostly from unknown source
-I very rarely buy new products, clothes or decorative items
-I buy new products, clothes or decorative things every now and again
-I buy a new appliance, decoration, clothes or shoes every week
-I live in a building that was built to be energy efficient
-I live in a normal building but I use renewable energy for heating
-I live in a normal building that is heated with oil or natural gas
-I generally don’t shower for longer than 5 minutes and I rarely take a bath
-I love standing under the shower for a good 20 minutes, but few baths
-I often have bathes, but I shower less often and my showers are short
-In winter I wear a pullover when I am at home (18-20 degrees C)
-In winter, it is pleasantly warm in my home (20-22 degrees C)
-I can sit in my living room with just a T-shirt in winter (over 22 degrees C)
I have plans to step up my commitment every year. I have been reading up on solar panels on the roof on our home in Edmonton. First we would need a new roof. The government incentives in Alberta are no longer available. We are the third most favourable province for having solar power. The cost initially is at least $20,000. I will learn more about this and then see if we want to invest. I was interested to learn that solar panels in Canada are mostly made in Ontario, but there is a push on for this in Alberta too.
I am starting to think about my transportation habits, as I almost always use my car. I am riding my bike short distances in Phoenix. This is a small change. I am choosing if I really need to make a long drive somewhere, and if so, combine it with other errands. I have looked into electric vehicles, and am asking a lot of questions. I was interested to see that Alberta is not as far along in preparing for electric vehicles as BC, Ontario, and Quebec are. The other provinces have more charging stations. I read that by 2024 the cost of electric cars should be more on par with gas cars, and the batteries are having longer life each year they are made, so I personally am going to wait a few years. If I manage to become a public transit user in the meantime, that would be great, but I cannot envision this unless I move closer to the LRT. In the mean time, my friends, if we are going out to dine or to a show, let’s be sure to car pool.
Of course I am going to have to think seriously about my travels. I do at least 2 medium length return flights a year just seeing my family. That does not even include travel overseas. I am surprised to learn that flight has such a huge carbon footprint.
In general, when making choices, I picked what seemed easiest for me to do first. I look forward to the Canadian government and industry taking progressive action and making it easier and more affordable to do some of these other things like buying an electric car or buying and installing solar panels. I have written letters to my elected officials twice now, and plan to keep up the pressure to let them know I value these green innovations.
If you search online for ‘carbon calculators’, there are many choices. Some for different countries, for individuals, for small businesses, for school age population, for only household energy consumption, or flights, or any other single aspect of your life, and there are some that offer ways to pay back such as with TreeCanada. The one I used in this blog, myclimate.org included all aspects of my life, including food habits, and also did not require me to pull out all my utilities statements or auto bills in order to make an assessment. It is Canadian too. This appealed to me. To assist you, we will list some of the calculators in our resource section.
Next Week’s Blog
Thank you to our readers for the additional recommendations that came in over the holidays for tree-themed books and a video. We will profile these in next week’s blog post, together with Catherine’s personal change journey which she characterizes as being more emergent and evolving in contrast to Lucy’s experience of transformational change.