Personal Change (Part Two)

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 HistoryTrees: A Rooted History serves as a beautifully packaged celebration of trees of all kinds.”

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.”

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.

My version of Susur Lee’s famous Singapore Slaw

“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.

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.

YouTube video of Forest Man, at: .

Next week’s blog post will continue to explore the food and climate change connection and profile tree tributes.

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