Positive Energy from Nature

This seems like a good week for calming photos of birds, mostly North American. We are sharing positive energy offered by the natural beauty of our feathered friends, as captured by Lucy’s photography.

We hope our Readers are keeping healthy, safe and well, and that these photos are beneficial in the spirit in which they are offered – our contribution of positive thoughts and calming images to help keep spirits and resilience high, in these unsettling times.

You may need to view these photos on a computer, tablet or iPad if they do not show up on your cell phone. In general, the Blog shows better with each larger device and is much more complete should you ever decide to go to the Blog site itself at: friends4trees4life.com We post each Thursday morning. At the Blog site we have made quick links to older posts for you and have other links (e.g., Resources). If you find you have more free time right now, this might be a great time to read old blogs you may have missed, to share with friends, and even to offer us feedback and suggestions.

Maximizing the Survival of the Birds We Love and the Trees We Plant

Tree Canopies and Bird Survival

As we write this blog, we are all isolating ourselves at home because of the novel corona virus, and finding ways to keep calm. Lucy is thankful for the trees in her yard and the visiting birds with their songs, and, for the ability still to simply walk in nature to enjoy the trees and birds during this incredibly unprecedented and unsettling time. Lucy has taken a strong interest in birds and photographing birds, so also is thrilled to share some of the images here of the birds that live in the trees.

Northern Parula Warbler

Trees are critical for meeting the many birds’ basic needs for survival. Trees provide sap, buds, nuts and fruit for birds and host insects in bark and leaves. The leaves collect water for small birds to drink and many birds will rub against wet leaves to bathe. Thick branches and leaves provide shelter for birds in all weather and many birds roost in trees. Many cavity-nesting birds will drill holes in trees to nest, while others build nests on branches. 

Why Is Maximizing the Survival of Birds Important to Us in North America?

Birds have great personal and economic value to people. We are learning from many sources, including TheSpruce.com website, that one third of human food comes from plants that are pollinated by birds, butterflies and other wild pollinators. Birds also  disperse seeds and help to control rodents, insects, and other pests that would otherwise devastate crops, forests, and ecosystems. In Western N. America, Savannah Sparrows, Sage Thrashers, Egrets, and other birds help control grasshopper populations that would otherwise destroy many crops. In Eastern N. America, nesting Wood Warblers consume 84% of the eastern spruce budworm that would otherwise decimate forests.

Bridled Titmouse

So many people enjoy seeing birds in their yards, community, at the lake or ocean or while on holidays (e.g., forest hikes and nature reserves). The sound of their songs and their beauty are undeniably lovely, for the most part. They are entertaining to observe and are so complex in their variety and habits. Their flight patterns even feel poetic and balletic at times, as this short, beautiful yet eerie National Geographic video clip of the phenomenon of murmuration by starlings illustrates dramatically https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4f_1_r80RY. How far they migrate, what they eat, how they nest, their mating rituals, all these details are of great interest to people of all ages. Lucy loves to photograph them too, as do many people (https://bit.ly/2Qn14iA).

Long Term Study Shows Bird Loss in North America

A recent study shows that 30% of birds have disappeared in the USA and Canada since 1970. This is a loss of 2.9 billion adult breeding birds. “It’s telling us that our environment is not healthy for birds, and probably also not for humans”, according to Peter Marra, director of the Georgetown Environment Initiative. Basically, our birding habitats, food webs and patterns for survival are changing because of temperatures rising, low dose pesticides, fewer water sources, less grassland, and loss of trees. So-called ‘common birds’ – the species many people see every day – represent the greatest losses of birdlife in the study. There are 19 common species that have each lost more than 50 million birds since 1970.

Cornell Chronicle, Cornell University at: https://bit.ly/33onkxI.

The study notes that twelve groups, including sparrows, warblers, finches, and blackbirds, were particularly hard hit. Even introduced species that have thrived in North America, such as starlings and house sparrows, are losing ground. The losses include favourite species seen at bird feeders, such as dark-eyed juncos (little gray snowbirds that show up in backyards in winter, down by 160 million) and white-throated sparrows (down by 90 million). Meadowlarks are down 130 million from coast to coast. The continental red-winged blackbird population has declined by 92 million. In terms of forest birds in North America, 30 species are highly vulnerable, which is about 49% of breeding forest species. Once again it is expected the composition of our forest bird community will change markedly as the climate warms. On a happier note, water fowl and raptors are on the rise, and when an effort to protect certain species of birds has happened, it has been very successful. 

Research sources for facts and data cited above from: Mass Audubon at https://bit.ly/3d5hp57, and, Cornell University’s Cornell Chronicle, at: https://bit.ly/33onkxI.

What Can We Do To Prevent Bird Numbers From Decline?

This extensive research helps us understand the causes of bird loss and helps researchers identify strategies to prevent continuing bird numbers declining. As individuals there are two categories of activities that we are called to take action on in order to protect birds—and ourselves—from the most severe effects of climate change.  

  1. To avoid the worst effects of climate change we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at all scales, from individual actions to international agreements. Please consider, for example:
  • Reducing our personal carbon footprint. See our list of carbon calculators in our resource section of our blog.
  • Getting our communities to buy electricity from renewable sources, or advocating for this.   
  • Advocating for federal leadership to honor the Paris Agreement. 
  • Writing elected officials to encourage environmental and ecosystem stewardship in forestry practices.
House Finch

2. Reducing existing stressors on ecosystems for bird life. Please consider, for example:

  • Keeping cats indoors, since each year, outdoor cats kill more than a billion birds in the US and Canada.
  • Reducing bird injuries and deaths from window strikes by placing feeders at least 25 feet from our homes, and using window decals to prevent collisions. We gave these decals out for Christmas gifts this year.
  • Drinking bird-friendly coffee. Buying and drinking certified bird-friendly, shade-grown coffee reduces stress on migratory bird habitat and natural resources. One place we use to order this certified coffee is through the Audubon Society.
  • Reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides on our weeds, grass and plants. When we visited Arizona we notice many people have gardeners and it is quickest for them to spray the weeds rather than pull them. This is so common, likely no one is thinking of the birds. As well exterminators spray for outdoor bugs like scorpions and other pests, again harming the birds and eradicating the bugs birds like to eat. Lucy is going to focus on stopping this convenience now that she has read that the birds’ systems are weakened from pesticides.
Red-Eyed Vireo
  • Landscaping our yards for wildlife. Since trees are so helpful to birds, adding the appropriate native trees to our landscaping will support and attract a wider variety of bird species that will see the yard as a sanctuary. There are three basic types of trees that can be fantastic for any bird landscaping: Deciduous trees, Coniferous Trees and Fruit Trees. We can choose trees appropriate for our soil chemistry and regional climate and native varieties are best. They will grow more quickly, be healthier, and be more easily recognized by local birds. It is considered best to opt for a variety of tree species to attract the most birds and plan to provide resources for them all year round. We also can choose trees that are a variety of heights, shapes and thicknesses to add variety to our bird-friendly landscaping. This will give birds many options to suit their different preferences. Native flowers and bushes are also great for attracting birds. Source: Mass Audubon, at: https://bit.ly/3d5hp57.
Hepatic Tanager

Maximizing Tree Planting Success

We hope that after reading this post you are now as hooked as we are about tree planting for climate action, landscaping beauty AND bird survival!

Perfect timing, since tonight marks the official start of spring, and — spring is the best time to plant a tree.

We are learning from “Master Gardeners” in Toronto for example, that deciduous trees “should be planted as early in the spring as possible,” and that they “generally require more maintenance,” such as pruning, than do coniferous trees.

Apparently, coniferous trees “prefer planting from mid to late spring when the soil has warmed up a little.”

Next week’s blog post will go into more detail about the range of factors to consider (e.g., what is the tree’s intended function in your landscaping – wind screen? privacy? summer shade?, and, selecting native species for your region and climate zone), plus, tips we are learning from the experts (e.g., signs of tree health to look for when making your choice at a reputable nursery), aimed at helping tree planters, including ourselves, to maximize tree survival rates.

And remember, in last December’s blog post on Tree Joys and Benefits, we learned about research findings on health benefits from spending as little as five minutes a day among trees (including urban trees). The Japanese government even has implemented the policy of Shinrinyoku (or forest bathing) to embed opportunities for time among trees in Japanese society.

Speaking personally, we both really appreciate the calming, renewing benefits of time in Nature and taking a moment to notice bird and tree life, all the more so, in these unsettling times.

Can’t wait until next week for garden planning?

Here’s a guide on “Planting a Tree,” by Toronto’s Master Gardeners to help get you going on your landscaping plans right away [https://bit.ly/33otvBU].

Happy official start to Spring 2020!

Forests – Mangrove; Boreal; Tax Incentives; & Pioneers

Mangrove Forests

Mangroves are trees or shrubs that grow in salty water in hot places, specifically 1/3 of the tropics including Central America, sub-tropical Africa, Asia, and the southwest Pacific. Their twisted, tangled roots collect sediment, and over time the sediment may become islands or extend the shoreline. By slowing the movement of water and trapping sediment, mangroves help stabilize coastlines and reduce the impacts of storm waves and flooding, all which are growing threats as the climate changes. These distinctive trees also help reduce global warming because their rich, waterlogged soil can absorb and store a great deal of carbon. 

Mangroves’ special root-like structure stick out as far as 3 metres from the soil, and are covered in lenticels that are like breathing tubes taking in oxygen through their pores. Smaller roots, with air passages, move oxygen from the air to parts of the plant underwater. Mangrove roots give clear water to the coral by trapping dirt and they clean water by filtering land runoff and removing pollutants. The trees also protect the shoreline (and, through this, the coral reefs) from being eroded by storm waves. Mangrove thickets are a good place for many coral-reef fish, shrimp and crabs to grow. Source: Wikipedia: https://bit.ly/39yMTON

We are learning from Yale Climate Connections, however, that many mangrove forests are disappearing. About a third of the world’s mangroves have been destroyed over the past 50 years, so advocates say there’s a lot more to be done to protect and restore mangroves around the world. Ecoviva is part of a coalition restoring mangroves in El Salvador (https://bit.ly/2xmmq98).

Another restoration project is with One Tree Planted: to plant 1.5 million mangroves in the Sundarbans of India/Pakistan.  They report “Mangrove forests move carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into long-term storage in greater quantities than other forests, making them ‘among the planet’s best carbon scrubbers’ according to a NASA-led study based on satellite data.”

You can go to One Tree Planted to donate to this cause. Onetreeplanted.org

The Boreal Forest of Canada

As shown in the map, the huge Boreal forest makes up 60 percent of Canada’s land mass. Canada has about 25-30% of the world’s Boreal forest, the rest being found in the northern hemisphere in Russia, Alaska, northern Europe, Iceland, Mongola and Japan. We as a country are seen as leaders in science based research and practises in the management of the Boreal forest. Canada’s Boreal forest is central to the country’s natural environment, history, culture and economy. Canada respects and looks after its Boreal forest in many ways, including by setting aside legally protected areas, conducting scientific research and monitoring the state of the forests.

Most of the 20 tree species native to the Canadian boreal are conifers, with needle leaves and cones. These include: black spruce, white spruce, balsam fir, larch (tamarack), lodgepole pine, and jack pine. There are a few broad-leaved species of trees: trembling and large-toothed aspen, cottonwood, white birch, and balsam poplar. There are large areas of black spruce, a species which is tolerant of shallow soil, permafrost and waterlogged substrates, although as a consequence they have relatively low biological productivity. Owing to the short growing season, generally infertile and shallow soils, and frequent water logging, most of these forest types are slow-growing species. The lodgepole pine has suffered from the pine beetle. Surprisingly, even though the trees are generally young, the Boreal forest is very efficient in its carbon capture.

Although there are rather few species of trees in the Boreal forest, there is a considerable diversity of plants (1112 species), as well as 85 mammal species, 300 bird species, 32000 insect species, 130 types of fish and many reptiles and amphibians. It is an amazing and complex ecosystem. Source: Wikipedia: https://bit.ly/3aGdlpM.

The Boreal woodland caribou, whose lichen-rich, mature forest habitat spans the Boreal forest from the Northwest Territories to Labrador, is designated as a “threatened species” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. David Suzuki writes that this is because of over logging of our forests and asks us to take action to encourage government to reduce this practice (https://bit.ly/2PZDdFl).

On Amazon.com The Untold Chronicle of a Reforestation Season

If you do not have Amazon.com for the video above, how about this free National Geographic Slide Show: Meet the people planting trees after Canada’s lumber harvest (https://on.natgeo.com/3cLaqyi).

As we read about the management of our Boreal forest, there are extremely differing views. Some would say our Boreal forest is at risk from industrial development (logging, mining, oil and gas, dams) and others will say our forest is now thriving because of sustainable forest management (that imitates natural disturbances). Unfortunately, there is the added stress of the pine beetle infestation and an increase in the size of fires the past few years in Canada due to global warming. Applying new research into practice and having greater accountability, we do think  we are moving towards a new balance of sustainability but the threatened caribou gives us reason for concern. Can we improve our practices fast enough? This is a heated issue and if it is one you are concerned about, you might want to address it in a letter with your members of parliament, (see our page with a sample letter) or respond in another way, by, for example, reading more on the topic or perhaps donating trees to Canada’s Boreal forest through, e.g., Tree Canada. We invite your feedback and ideas too, in our comments section. For more information posted on the Government of Canada’s website, at: https://bit.ly/2TzmQl6, and at BorealBirds.orghttps://bit.ly/2TNT4bb.

How the Boreal Forest Contributes to Canada’s Economy

Forestry is a $25 Billion industry in Canada. The heart of the Canadian forest sector is traditional forest products, including lumber, other solid wood products, pulp and paper and activities such as forest management and logging. However, with Canada’s commitment to clean technology and the transition to a low-carbon economy, Lucy was pleased to read that non-traditional forest products, such as advanced bio-products, are growing in importance. The Canadian forest industry is a major employer nationwide, employing over 200,000 people and its economic contributions are particularly important in many rural and Indigenous communities, where forest-related work is often the main source of income. In these communities, forestry jobs are crucial to ensuring economic sustainability. More information on the forest industry is available on the Government of Canada’s website at: https://bit.ly/332NWnQ.

World Wide Forest Management and Carbon Storage

A groundbreaking study found that “natural climate solutions” – the conservation, restoration, and improved management of land in order to increase carbon storage or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in landscapes worldwide – can provide up to 37 percent of the emission reductions needed by 2030 to keep global temperatures under that 2°C mark. That’s 30 percent more than previously estimated. There is, however, a catch: The world must act now. If we’re too slow to start better managing and protecting these natural systems, the inaction will damage Nature’s ability to help heal the planet. Source: Nature.Org at: https://bit.ly/2TSnWqY.

Managed Forest Tax Incentive – Ontario

If you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident who owns at least four hectares of forested land in Ontario, you may be eligible for significant tax savings.

Ontario’s Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program (MTIP) is a program designed to increase landowner awareness about forest stewardship. It recognizes that certain forestlands may be privately owned, but may benefit all Ontarians.

The Ontario Woodlot website describes the program requirements and potential MTIP benefits to eligible landowners as:

“Landowners who apply and qualify for the program have their property classified and assessed as managed forest under the Managed Forest property class. The land is taxed at 25 percent of the municipal tax rate set for residential properties.

MFTIP is a voluntary program and in order to be eligible, landowners must:

  • own at least 4 hectares (9.88 acres) of forested property,
  • must prepare a Managed Forest Plan and have it approved by a certified Managed Forest Plan Approver,
  • and activities on the property must be carried out in accordance with “good forestry practices” as defined in the Forestry Act.”  https://bit.ly/2wF7LW6

For program details, guide, eligibility criteria and sample application forms go to the Government of Ontario website at: https://bit.ly/2v528jz.

Reforestation Pioneers

Canadian Botanist – Diana Beresford-Kroeger

Thanks to Reader Terry in B.C., last week we were introduced to Diana Beresford-Kroeger through a five-part series of articles written by Tyee’s Andrew Nikiforuk and published in the New York Times.

Her life-story makes for intriguing reading as much as her pioneering reforestation efforts and insights into the hidden life of trees. Here is what Good Reads writes in a review of Beresford-Kroeger’s book, “To Speak for the Trees: My Life’s Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest,” –

“Canadian botanist, biochemist and visionary Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s startling insights into the hidden life of trees have already sparked a quiet revolution in how we understand our relationship to forests. Now, in a captivating account of how her life led her to these illuminating and crucial ideas, she shows us how forests can not only heal us but save the planet.”

“When Diana Beresford-Kroeger–whose father was a member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and whose mother was an O’Donoghue, one of the stronghold families who carried on the ancient Celtic traditions–was orphaned as a child, she could have been sent to the Magdalene Laundries. Instead, the O’Donoghue elders, most of them scholars and freehold farmers in the Lisheens valley in County Cork, took her under their wing. Diana became the last ward under the Brehon Law. Over the course of three summers, she was taught the ways of the Celtic triad of mind, body and soul. This included the philosophy of healing, the laws of the trees, Brehon wisdom and the Ogham alphabet, all of it rooted in a vision of nature that saw trees and forests as fundamental to human survival and spirituality. Already a precociously gifted scholar, Diana found that her grounding in the ancient ways led her to fresh scientific concepts. Out of that huge and holistic vision have come the observations that put her at the forefront of her field: the discovery of mother trees at the heart of a forest; the fact that trees are a living library, have a chemical language and communicate in a quantum world; the major idea that trees heal living creatures through the aerosols they release and that they carry a great wealth of natural antibiotics and other healing substances; and, perhaps most significantly, that planting trees can actively regulate the atmosphere and the oceans, and even stabilize our climate.”

“This book is not only the story of a remarkable scientist and her ideas, it harvests all of her powerful knowledge about why trees matter, and why trees are a viable, achievable solution to climate change. Diana eloquently shows us that if we can understand the intricate ways in which the health and welfare of every living creature is connected to the global forest, and strengthen those connections, we will still have time to mend the self-destructive ways that are leading to drastic fires, droughts and floods.” https://bit.ly/333rdYY.

Man of the Trees – Richard St. Barbe Baker

Author Paul Hanley, as well as the International Tree Foundation might claim that the work of Beresford-Kroeger builds upon and follows the earlier pioneering efforts of Richard St. Barbe Baker, who some say is the original “global conservationist”. 

Hanley’s biography of this fascinating environmentalist is titled, “Man of the Trees: Richard St. Barbe Baker, The First Global Conservationist”. Barry Silverstein offers this positive review of it in ForewardReview.Com:

“Richly textured, Man of the Trees paints an intimate portrait of environmentalist Richard St. Barbe Baker.

Baker was a self-admitted “tree hugger” who, as early as the 1920s, pursued sustainable forestry and started Men of the Trees, the first international environmental nongovernmental organization. Paul Hanley’s biography faithfully follows Baker as he roams the world and innovates in forestry, instigating a dance for the planting of trees in Africa, working to save the redwoods in California, and envisioning the reforesting of the Sahara desert. The man revealed is passionate, driven, and fully committed to environmental conservation.

This biography is all the more fascinating because it delves into Baker’s psyche and his personal life. Hanley carefully documents Baker’s love of trees, which began during his childhood in England and never stopped. It brought Baker fame when, on a radio program, Lowell Thomas named him “the man of the trees” and notoriety when Baker influenced Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps.

Hanley chronologically traces Baker’s progression as an environmentalist until his death in 1982. As with many visionaries, some of Baker’s ideas were too advanced for his time, but today they are being realized. For example, “His vision of a green front against the Sahara ultimately came to fruition in the twenty-one nation effort to plant Africa’s Great Green Wall.”

Baker’s life was complex and at times “serendipitous.” He acted as “a catalyst, a wedge, a collaborator.” His Men of the Trees organization was renamed the International Tree Foundation and continues Baker’s mission to combat deforestation in Africa.

Man of the Trees is a finely drawn, well-executed biography of an important environmental figure.” https://bit.ly/2TwUFmW

Wikipedia describes St. Barbe Baker as, “…an inspirational visionary and pioneering environmentalist who is credited with saving and planting billions of trees.” He founded the international Men of the Trees organization after World War II, which was later renamed as the International Tree Foundation (UK) and continues its tree planting work around the world to this day. Read what the Foundation has to say about Why Trees Matter at: https://bit.ly/3cFmj8J.

Both Beresford-Kroeger and St. Barbe Baker have strong Canadian connections – Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a Canadian living in Ontario, and St. Barbe Baker is buried at Woodlawn Cemetry in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. According to Wikipedia, “Saskatoon City Council in 1979 celebrated the achievement and distinction of Baker naming the afforestation area preserved in perpetuity in Saskatoon (south of the CNR Station) in his honour – the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area. Richard St Barbe Baker’s papers, manuscripts, personal correspondence, forestry and conservation activities, photographs and fonds are preserved at the University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections Room.” https://bit.ly/2TOjo4T.

Perhaps, as we learned earlier, since the huge Boreal forests occupy 60 percent of Canada’s landmass, it may be only fitting that Canada is also home to such eminent and leading botanists and inspirational tree experts and advocates as St. Barbe Baker and Beresford-Kroeger.

FYI, at a Reader’s suggestion (thank you), we have added a new Menu item called “Quick Links to Old Posts“.

We try to end each post with a good news story.

We are encouraged by what the possibilities might hold in future for greater momentum, innovation and resolve to stop the world’s climate crisis, sponsored in part by a big boost in climate change philanthropy – to the tune of $10 Billion (!) – via the new Bezos’ Earth Fund, announced in February 2020. This article in the Verge (https://bit.ly/39Du3q0) as well as this BBC interview with Professor Elizabeth Robinson at the University of Reading, begin to imagine where best to invest these new funds, for the best ROI on behalf of Planet Earth and all our futures…..https://bbc.in/39FIbyJ.

Just in time for this week’s post focused on forests, we learned that in 2012 the UN began designating every March 21 as International Day of Forests.

The UN’s website, titled Too Precious to Lose, explains why – “When we drink a glass of water, write in a notebook, take medicine for a fever or build a house, we do not always make the connection with forests. And yet, these and many other aspects of our lives are linked to forests in one way or another.”

Forests, their sustainable management and use of resources, including in fragile ecosystems, are key to combating climate change, and to contributing to the prosperity and well-being of current and future generations. Forests also play a crucial role in poverty alleviation and in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)…”

“…Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects.”

Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate.

Readers may wish to learn more on this at: https://bit.ly/2xsDUAB and/or watch this one-minute video clip profiling the 2020 theme for International Day of Forests as ‘Forests and Biodiversity’ (https://bit.ly/2TIFF5o). For mystery-lovers, seven secrets that forests are keeping from us may be discovered here at https://bit.ly/2IGyBjv.

March presents us with an opportunity to reflect on the importance of forests to our lives, as we prepare to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, 2020 – less than six weeks away.

Next week’s Blog post will look into tree canopies and bird survival, and what contributes to effective tree planting and survival rates.

Food Waste and Climate Change

Being a “foodie,” Catherine is motivated to learn more about the food waste and climate change connection, and to take personal action to reduce her family’s “foodprint” (or, food-related carbon footprint).

She is inspired by what she learned at a recent documentary screening and panel discussion on the topic. The one hour film, WASTED! The Story of Food Waste is excellent, well worth the time, and amazingly also is available free on CBC’s web-site.

Inspite of the staggeringly depressing opening central fact of the documentary – that one-third of all food grown for human consumption ends up in the garbage (for Canadians, it is even worse at 60% of all food produced being lost and wasted annually !) – it actually ends up being quite an upbeat film, as narrator Anthony Bourdain (R.I.P.), and other celebrity chefs educate viewers about the various dimensions of the problem, while spot lighting innovations and solutions happening around the world where individuals, farmers, chefs, entrepreneurs, non-profits, and governments are rising to the challenge and are tackling the (avoidable) food waste –  carbon emissions problem at every level. One take-away from watching the documentary is the idea of food capture, and the inverted pyramid of priorities for re-directing food, before it is wasted:

The goal at all costs is to avoid sending food waste to become garbage in landfills, where it emits methane as it decomposes, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times worse for global warming than is carbon dioxide.  Sadly, the statistic cited in the documentary is that, in the US, 90% of food waste ends up in landfill.

How long does it take for lettuce to decompose in landfill? The answer is startling and disconcerting: https://bit.ly/2vwzjge.

There is good news, however.

Just as tree planting (or donating) for carbon capture is something individuals may act on right away to make a difference for climate change–no need for more research, committees, legislation or policy—although spring weather for planting helps.  So, too, it is possible for individuals to contribute to slowing global warming through our personal actions to avoid and reduce food waste. And, we even stand to save money (estimated by Canadian researches as up to $1700 per household per year) while doing our part to save Planet Earth.

If you are a Torontonian (or Edmontonian, see below), there is even more good news and another reason for civic pride.

Catherine learned from the Food Waste panel event she attended as research for this Blog post about Anaerobic Digesters and Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). Apparently, the City of Toronto is an Innovator in North America through its implementation of leading edge methods for managing our Compost waste. The City has an Anaerobic Digester which processes the compost that residents put out in our green bins on garbage day and converts it into RNG, which fuels the garbage trucks that pick up our trash. How cool is that!

The World Economic Forum thinks it’s pretty cool, and profiled our Closed Loop Digester system in this article: https://bit.ly/2I5utJB.

This article by SoCalGas, explains what is Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) and why it is carbon-neutral, and in some cases, such as in capturing and converting food waste, it is even carbon-negative: https://bit.ly/2vlndXk.

CBC also explains what happens to food waste in Toronto’s anaerobic digester in these two articles: https://bit.ly/38cvudp, and, https://bit.ly/2wkINeo.

And now there are more of these being built in Canada, Lucy is happy to read that Edmonton has one too! The brand new High Solids Anaerobic Digestion Facility (HSADF) has been recognized with the Canadian Construction Association’s (CCA) 2018 Environmental Achievement Award. Maple Reinders is recognized for its  success in implementing environmentally sound practices, and for their work in communicating sustainable approaches. For instance, it reuses the methane produced from the waste to generate heat and electricity for the facility and soon Edmontonians will use a new green bin compost program with the plans to divert 90% of waste from landfills https://bit.ly/32L80Lk.

Food Waste and Climate Change

Some sobering facts from this UN primer: If world food waste were a country, it would be the third largest carbon emitter in the world, after first place China, and second place, US. Unfortunately, Canada also is among the top ten countries in carbon emissions https://bit.ly/2vvUGhz.

Research by Second Harvest, “The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste,” quantifies that fully one-third of food that is lost and wasted in Canada annually is “avoidable and is edible food that could be redirected to support people in our communities. The total financial value of this potentially rescuable lost and wasted food is a staggering $49.46 billion.” The 30-page solutions-oriented Roadmap report is here: https://bit.ly/2VAXiWk and, for Readers who want to delve deeper, the detailed, 122-page Technical report is here: https://bit.ly/2PyR3OM.

While addressing the two-thirds of food waste and loss that occurs during production and distribution is beyond the direct control of individual concerned citizens to alter, fully one-third of food waste and loss is within the direct power of consumers to impact positively.

As a public service alert, we want to profile information on page 13 of the Roadmap Report, which identifies barriers to rescuing and donating food, including confusion between “expiry” and “best before” dates. According to the report, in Canada, “only five foods require expiry dates: nutritional supplements; meal replacements; baby formula and other human milk substitutes; pharmacist-sold foods for very low-energy diets; and, formulated liquid diets.”

“Best before” dates do not mean “bad after”. (Typically, the dates are for inventory control).

The Roadmap report states that, “(F)ood with best before dates are safe to eat past the date if they are unopened and stored at the proper temperature. Foods past the best before date can also be donated to food rescue programs, if Public Health guidelines are followed.

Innovation – Toast Ale

We hope these tasty suds come to a nearby pub soon so we can add beer drinking to our personal climate action plans!  Toast Ale was profiled in the Wasted documentary. You can learn their story of taking bread waste and turning it into ale here: https://bit.ly/2TbHZ4z.

Massimo Botttura is one of the celebrity chefs profiled in the food waste documentary. He is tackling the issue of food waste in the restaurant industry in many ways and expanding his actions to several countries. You can learn about his “Food for Soul” project and Refettorios and Social Tables at: https://www.foodforsoul.it/.

Innovation – Le Curve Pasta

Bottura’s innovative “Le Curve Pasta,” is apparently available at Eataly stores. Now that Catherine knows about it, and since Toronto now has its own Eataly, she plans to look for Le Curve Pasta the next time she is in the vicinity of Bay and Bloor Streets https://bit.ly/2I98FwC.

Media Choices

Readers may prefer different media formats and approaches to learning.

In this spirit, we are pleased to be able to offer different options for Readers who may be interested in learning more.

Video: “Wasted: The Story of Food Waste”, available on CBC’s website (one hour) at: https://bit.ly/2I7YMiD

Article: “South Korea once recycled 2% of its food waste. Now it recycles 95%,” by the World Economic Forum https://bit.ly/2TalZqW.

Why Trees Matter

Articles: Five-part series by Tyee’s Andrew Nikiforuk on his conversations with “globally bestselling (Canadian) botanist, author and filmmaker, Diana Beresford-Kroeger, ranging from plant medicine to climate change to healing the planet and the human heart.” February 24: https://bit.ly/3ac8PiG; February 25: https://bit.ly/2TaGALC (Flawed thinking that got us to climate change); February 26: https://bit.ly/39eTSw7 (Mother Trees); February 27: https://bit.ly/39bfee4; and, February 28: https://bit.ly/32CvxOw (If We Plant a Billion Trees to Save Us They Must Be Native Trees). Thank you, Reader Terry for putting this author and these thoughtful articles on our radar!

Podcast:  The BBC examines “the extent to which planting trees could help to mitigate climate change” with interviews by Professor Tom Crowther (ETH Zurich University), Darren Woodcroft (Woodland Trust, UK) singer Inna Modja and Dr. Susan Cook (The Nature Conservancy, US) https://bbc.in/32Gmufs.

Poem and poetry reading: One of Catherine’s favourite poets is Mary Oliver. Her poem, “When I am Among Trees,” is presented and read by Amanda Palmer, at:  https://bit.ly/3acc2Pg.

Next week’s Blog post will include more profiles of our favourite trees, tax breaks for large-scale tree planting and a book recommendation by Vancouver Reader Terry.

Last word and line, to Mary Oliver — “You too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”

Just eight weeks until Earth Day on April 22, 2020.