Calling all Wannabe Climate Heroes!

Photo credit Jim

First of all Happy New Year and a warm welcome to 2021. We are happy to say good bye to 2020 and let’s hope this new year sees a quick recovery from COVID 19 with the vaccine. In the meantime, stay safe everyone.

This blog focuses on personal commitments to our climate emergency. In this blog Lucy will look back at her New Year Resolutions from last year and see how she has done, and also look at new goals for this year, with the basic goal of trying to reduce her carbon footprint by at least 8% a year for 8 years so she is living sustainably. She will also look at some different carbon calculators including a cool site called Project Neutral.

No one can do everything, but everyone can do something!

According to Project Neutral, based out of Ontario, “Together, we can create a beautiful future powered by clean energy and a new generation of climate optimists. Climate change is real, it’s a big deal and it’s happening right now. It’s causing bigger storms, it’s affecting our economy and it’s impacting our health. Together, we can take action on our climate impact and “be the change” that supports a pollution solution. When you take action in your home and community towards a clean energy future, you make a positive difference in your household and for our planet.”

Project Neutral reminds us that “You can make a difference by:

  1. Directly reducing your greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through energy saving home improvements and active, healthy habits.
  2. Sharing your low-carbon lifestyle with friends and neighbours. Believe it or not, telling others what you’ve done helps make low-carbon living the new normal.
  3. Getting together with your community to support meaningful climate action from political and corporate leaders.

Small changes you make at home have ripple effects that add up to big impacts for the planet. Learn more about greenhouse gasses and what causes climate change. Project Neutral’s award-winning carbon calculator gives you the tools to understand your climate impact and what you can do about it.”

Project Neutral is a project on MakeWay’s shared platform, which provides operational supports, governance, and charitable expertise for change makers. The shared platform enables more time and money to go towards achieving greater impact. Make Way is a national charity that builds partnerships and solutions to help nature and communities thrive together.

While navigating their detailed carbon calculator, Lucy was most impressed with the suggestions that were offered of how to “take action” in each of the categories of Home Energy, Food, Waste, Daily Transportation, and Travel.

What changes will help the most?

The best climate actions are the ones that will bring additional benefits to you and your community. Adding insulation to your home will make it more comfortable. Hopping on your biking to enjoy a healthy activity will improve the air quality in your neighbourhood.

Discover where you’ll have the most impact by looking at your dashboard results. Where do you see the most colour in YOUR results, especially when compared to the average household? Now, check the legend for its corresponding impact activity to see where a small change in your choices could have the most benefit.

Here are some easy ideas to get you started:

Home Energy

Simple and inexpensive options

  • Install LED lightbulbs
  • Install low-flow shower heads
  • Close your blinds on hot days
  • Lower your water heater’s temperature

Bigger projects

  • Install a smart thermostat to avoid heating/cooling your home when no one is there
  • Keep heated/cooled air inside by sealing air leaks, insulating your walls, attic and foundation, and/or replacing old doors and windows
  • Upgrade to a high efficiency furnace
  • Switch to ENERGY STAR® rated appliances including water heaters, air conditioners, kitchen appliances, washers and dryers

Daily Transportation and Travel

  • Walk or bike whenever possible!
  • Take transit whenever you can avoid being in a private vehicle
  • Carpool, or use ride sharing and bike sharing programs
  • Check the air pressure in your vehicle’s tires and inflate them as recommended by the manufacturer for better fuel efficiency
  • Reduce driving time on individual trips by grouping your errands together
  • Reduce the number of airline flights you take
  • For flights you must take, consider buying high-quality carbon offsets

Food Choices

  • Carbon emissions from livestock are similar to transportation carbon emissions: they are very large. Eating less meat and dairy by adopting a more plant-based diet can reduce your carbon impact from food, often quite significantly.
  • Choose local food that has travelled fewer kilometres to your plate. Canadian food isn’t always the most local option: produce grown in some U.S. states might have shipped closer to home than produce shipped from across the country.
  • Recent studies show that the type of food and how it’s produced are more important factors in determining its GHG emissions than the distance it traveled. This Worldwatch Institute article, Is Local Food Better? provides a good summary of research on, and reviews the connection between, GHG emissions and food.
Land use for cow pasture and livestock feed


  • Freeze last night’s leftovers for a great lunch later in the week and avoid throwing out spoiled food
  • Compost food waste to keep it out of landfill, where it turns into highly-polluting methane gas
  • Know where it goes: use your municipality’s online search tool to identify whether items can be composted, recycled or trashed
  • Donate gently used items to so they can be re-used, and you’ll reduce demand for newly manufactured items as well

These ideas are just a start. You can also take advantage of rebates and incentives and local climate action programs. Don’t be shy! Share your favourite low-carbon action and why it works for you on your preferred social forum. Be sure to tag @ProjectNeutral on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter when you do! Lucy is now following ProjectNeutral on Instagram.

Reality Check For the Wealthy

According to an article in the Washington Post, “the world’s rich need to cut their carbon footprint by a factor of 30 to slow climate change, U.N. warns, in order to help put the planet on a path to curb the ever-worsening impacts of climate change, according to new findings.”

“Currently, the emissions attributable to the richest 1 percent of the global population account for more than double those of the poorest 50 percent. Shifting that balance, researchers found, will require swift and substantial lifestyle changes, including decreases in air travel, a rapid embrace of renewable energy and electric vehicles, and better public planning to encourage walking, bicycle riding and public transit.”

“We better make these shifts, because while covid has been bad, there is hope at the end of the tunnel with a vaccine,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environmental Program, said in an interview. “But there is no vaccine for the planet.

“Bending that disturbing curve in a more sustainable direction will require fundamental, unprecedented changes on the part of leaders around the globe. But as Wednesday’s report makes clear, individual behavior also has a role to play. And the wealthy — whom the report defines as those with the highest 1 percent of incomes globally, or more than $109,000 per year — bear the greatest responsibility for helping fuel such a shift. (The “1 percent” in the United States, a wealthy country, are considerably richer than average, with annual household incomes above $500,000.)”

Photo credit Jim

“Wealthy people are more likely to travel frequently by car and plane and to own large, energy-intensive homes. They tend to have meat-rich diets that require large amounts of greenhouse gases to produce. They buy the bulk of carbon-costly appliances, clothing, furniture and other luxury items.”

“Residents of the United States — the world’s largest historical source of planet-warming emissions — have some of the most carbon-intensive lifestyles. The carbon footprint of the average American is about 17.6 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents a year, about twice the footprint of a person living in the European Union or the United Kingdom, and almost 10 times that of the average Indian citizen’s 1.7 tons annually.”

“Still, this year’s pandemic might offer clues about how humans could achieve those cuts, Menon added. People are flying less, teleworking more and making fewer luxury purchases. “The question is, how do you keep these new behaviors we learned this year, but in a more sustainable way?” she said.”

Lucy’s Annual Climate Change Commitment and Review

This is what Lucy wrote a year ago:

“For 2020 Lucy has decided to go vegetarian, although is debating still about whether to completely remove fish from her diet immediately. She has 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. She is conscious of buying only the things she needs, like things that are worn out and need replacing. Buying used is basically guilt free. Lucy has replaced all the lights in the Phoenix house with LED and will look to see which lights need changing in Edmonton. These steps alone, she thinks, will decrease her carbon footprint about 8-10% this year.  If she decreases 8% every year for the next 8 years, she hopes to cut her carbon footprint in half.”

How did she do?

  1. Vegetarian: Lucy planned to go vegetarian. This quickly changed to pescatarian, with the occasional indulgence in chicken wings. Then she realized that by being pescatarian, her partner Allan also became mostly pescatarian, with occasional bacon on the side! So that was a bonus that two of us changed our eating habits, simply because we share meals. So Lucy does not feel bad about the inclusion of chicken on occassion. Allan’s vegan daughters are thrilled that Allan has made this shift, even though he did not plan for it.
  2. Thermostat below 20 degrees. Lucy and Allan have kept the thermostat at 20 degrees, as 19 degrees feels cold, even with sweaters layered up. Lucy finds she uses a heated wheat bag, and a blanket on the couch as well. The problem is once she gets under that blanket, she can’t get back out!!!! And it is tempting to take more hot baths when one gets chilled! This is a challenge for Lucy who is a heat seeker, but 20 is better than the 21-22 we had the thermostat set at.
  3. Hang clothes to dry: Lucy and Allan did this during the warmer weather. Allan does not like how stiff his clothes are, so this is not going as smoothly as we wished. Time to get back on track!
  4. In terms of buying only what she needs, Lucy feels she has done quite well. She spent only 1/3 of her normal budget on clothes. Unintentionally she did find some great hiking boots and rain boots at a second hand store, and is so thrilled with how they have worked out. She did spend most of her splurging this year on creating a vegetable garden, so let’s hope it reaps a lot of food for years to come. In general she does not buy books, but lends from the library. She did indulge in a bird bath, so am not sure that was a “need”! Just paying attention to one’s shopping habits is a win. Being home all the time this year has led to wanting to spend on one’s space. It is interesting how somehow we have been programmed to want something different to look at, and get bored with the same things around us……not sure if that is we have become accustomed to, or a first world issue, but it is something to be aware of. Lucy has been moving things around in the living room to jazz things up, fitting in some of the art that was in Phoenix, and selling off other pieces on Facebook Marketplace.
  5. LED bulbs: We changed out almost all the light bulbs in our Phoenix and Edmonton home. This is a bigger project than we expected as there are so many types of lights in our house, and some bulbs are rare or hard to find in LED. It took several visits to the hardware store and shopping online.
  6. Since starting this blog, Lucy offset carbon emissions of each of the 2019 and 2020 flights by purchasing $50 worth of trees. That helps somewhat with the guilt.
  7. Research:  Lucy also did research on buying an electric car. In Alberta we still need more infrastructure for the electric car, and she would like to see continued improvement in the life of the rechargeable battery, and in Alberta we need to be creating electricity with cleaner means before this choice will be viable for her, so she will look at this option again for 2023.  For now, driving less is the best option. Lucy has been walking to the library, a distance she used to always drive; baby steps in letting go of the car addiction. It was interesting to read that 99% of people who buy EV never want to go back to fuel run vehicles.
  8. Of course this blog that Lucy shares with Catherine is another way for us to make a difference by encouraging others to think about the sustainability of our planet and how to better take care of it for generations to come.
  9. Like everyone, Lucy and Allan embraced the concept of a staycation because of COVID. We have gone to tour our local new library, museum, art galleries, and botanical gardens with friends. Many people are taking up camping again, and we enjoyed going to Jasper, and driving to friend’s cottages and to B.C.

So Lucy would say she was quite successful meeting these goals. Then COVID hit and she did even better! We additionally stayed home a lot, did not drive our cars much, took only one flight all year, and sold our second home in the USA and suddenly Lucy (and likely all of us) far surpassed her goal of dropping 8% carbon production over the year. Lucy realizes, realistically, she will likely get back to taking flights to see family and to travel in future, but is sadly aware that the flights are such a big carbon problem. This is her weakness!!!! It is surprising that she used to be proud that she liked having the experience of visiting other countries and cultures, and prided herself in prioritizing that over material goods, only now to realize that flights are just plain bad for the planet. But, for today, Lucy feels very good about the results of 2020. She more than achieved her goals.

Lucy Tracking her Carbon Footprint on and Project Neutral

Project Neutral Carbon Calculator for Lucy 2020

Project Neutral Carbon Calculator 2020 for Lucy

Lucy’s Goals for 2021:

Lucy plans to research and implementing increased insulation in the house, and having more energy efficient toilets. She vows to always walk to the local plaza to the drug store or for a few items at the grocery store, and ride her bike to the local market for local produce each Wednesday in the nice weather with Allan who has a pannier on his bike. She will keep growing vegetables, learning from her experience last year, and there is much to learn! She plans to get back to hanging the laundry. She wants to somehow apply the concept of buying only what you need to her gift choices, like buying consumable items. Also, she will try to fly only one return trip a year, rather than two……but she is not sure at all how that will go, because she flies to see family and to travel. Luckily as we age we will likely want to stay closer to home.

As great as Lucy feels she is doing, she sees from the Project Neutral carbon calculator, in the table above, that she is still above average in her carbon score of 13.7 so there is still lots of room for improvement. She prefers the score she got on of 8.3. Next year Lucy will likely try one of the ones Eco Warrior Princess’ calculators listed in the next section: ‘carbon’ This EcoWarriorPrincess has a carbon footprint of about 5!

Photo credit Janet

EcoWarrior Princess on Carbon Calculators

In her research Lucy came across a blogger called the Eco Warrior Princess from Australia and she has “road tested” 4 different carbon calculators. This Princess takes the seriousness of carbon capture to a whole new level, so it was interesting to read what she has to say in response to the question “Just how sustainable is my lifestyle really?”.

“There is a tool that helps individuals quantify the environmental impact of their lifestyle choices and it’s called a carbon calculator. For green living enthusiasts, environmentalists and new sustainability advocates, this tool is an essential part of a ‘sustainable lifestyle tool kit’ as it helps you understand your impact and identify ways to further mitigate your greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. With a plethora of carbon calculators offered online, I road test four popular ones to determine how they work, what my annual carbon emissions are and the essential differences between them, their pros and cons, the way they make comparisons between you and the average citizen…”

She reviewed:

1. WWF Ecological Footprint Calculator


3. Australian Greenhouse Calculator

4. Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund (CNCF) Carbon Calculator

“While carbon calculators help to quantify the environmental impact of your lifestyle, the results vary depending on the methodology, assumptions and data used by each organization. If you are offsetting your carbon emissions I would recommend erring on the conservative side and using the highest GHG emissions you’ve calculated as basis for your carbon offset (like I did). This way you are doing more than enough to mitigate your climate impact so that instead of being carbon neutral, you are closer to being carbon positive.”

“Want to take the next step and offset your carbon emissions? Need information about the best carbon offset programs? This detailed post about carbon offsetting will help.”

Need to reduce your carbon emissions further? Check out these tips to help you live a zero waste lifestyle.”

To learn more please check out eco warrior princess at this site:

To End on A Positive Note

Joyful, Joyful

We start our holiday Blog post with a good news tree story. But, of course! It’s all about the trees!

A Win for Concerned Citizens in Action – Hurrah!

Imagine what it takes to keep your unwavering focus on the seemingly elusive cause of saving Toronto’s oldest tree….for 14 years!

Imagine being a six-year old who loves this 250 year old red oak and wanted to help.

Meet Sophie Maiolo, now nine, and Edith George, local Toronto heroes (and Junior and Senior Loraxes), who with champion donors Mark and Ben Cullen, and Ed Clarke, and together with more than 1300 other concerned citizens rallied behind a shared goal, and on November 26, succeeded, thus saving one of Canada’s oldest trees, for the benefit of the whole city of Toronto for generations to come.

Thanks to Nora for celebrating this success story with us. To read about Edith’s long journey, begun in 2006, and to see photos of this much beloved red oak (Quercus ruba) with its amazing 17-foot circumference and 78-foot wide span, see this inspirational Toronto Star piece about individual citizens joining up and making a difference

And here’s a news piece with tree photos on Toronto Council’s decision as featured on the GoodNewsNetwork

Brings to mind one of Catherine’s favourite quotes, by Margaret Mead – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” 

Making positive change for Planet Earth and one another, one tree and one forest at a time….

Thank You

It warms our hearts to hear that our Blog has inspired some of you to give the gift of trees this season. Thanks to Linda for bringing to our awareness an organization she supports inspired in part by our Blog – Chalice, which sponsors international aid projects that are ‘fighting hunger by planting fruit trees,’ – awesome cause!

Good Reads

Others are raising their voices (and our awareness) on tree-themed or environmental topics through their written word. Just in time for the holidays, whether for gifting or for your own reading pleasure, here are some recent book ideas that have come across our (virtual) desks, with thanks to friends and readers for alerting us to them.

Bridget George’s  It’s a Mitig! “guides young readers through the forest while introducing them to Ojibwe words for nature. From sunup to sundown, encounter an amik playing with sticks and swimming in the river, a prickly gaag hiding in the bushes and a big, bark-covered mitig.”

“Featuring vibrant and playful artwork, an illustrated Ojibwe-to-English glossary and a simple introduction to the double-vowel pronunciation system, plus accompanying online recordings, It’s a Mitig! is one of the first books of its kind. It was created for young children and their families with the heartfelt desire to spark a lifelong interest in learning language.” (Goodreads:

Canada’s Jessica J. Lee recently won the 2020 Hilary Weston Writer’s Trust for Non-Fiction award for her book, Two Trees Make a Forest: Travels Among Taiwan’s Mountains & Coasts in Search of My Family’s Past.

CBC Books offers this introduction to the work:

“A chance discovery of letters written by her immigrant grandfather leads Jessica J. Lee to her ancestral homeland, Taiwan. There, she seeks his story while growing closer to the land he knew.”

“Lee hikes mountains home to Formosan flamecrests, birds found nowhere else on earth, and swims in a lake of drowned cedars. She bikes flatlands where spoonbills alight by fish farms, and learns about a tree whose fruit can float in the ocean for years, awaiting landfall. Throughout, Lee unearths surprising parallels between the natural and human stories that have shaped her family and their beloved island. Joyously attentive to the natural world, Lee also turns a critical gaze upon colonialist explorers who mapped the land and named plants, relying on and often effacing the labor and knowledge of local communities.”

Goodreads adds, “Interlacing a personal narrative with Taiwan’s history and terrain, Two Trees Make a Forest is an intimate examination of the human relationship with geography and nature, and offers an exploration of one woman’s search for history and belonging amidst an ever-shifting landscape.”

After watching this delightful interview with the author by Steve Paikin on The Agenda, Catherine immediately put a hold request for the book with the wonderful Toronto Public Library.

She also was intrigued by this Steve Paikin interview with author James Raffan about his book Ice Walker, another book now on her holds list with the TPL:

Both books are profiled in this article in the Toronto Star on “Reads that are good for your environment,” together with:

Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass,

Julia Zarankin’s Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder, and,

David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet. (Toronto Star:

Here’s a link to Allan’s guest blog review on the David Attenborough documentary by the same name -


Columnists Mark and Ben Cohen profile the documentary, “Kiss the Ground,” as an illuminating “…treatise to the value of soil as a key component in the battle against climate change.” (Toronto Star, December 5, 2020). We have made a note to ourselves to learn more about the soil and climate change connection in 2021, starting by watching this documentary, narrated by Woody Harrelson, on Netflix soon. Stay tuned.


Thanks to Eileen for putting this excellent New York Times’ article on The Social Life of Trees and the work of Canadian scientist Suzanne Simard on our radar.  As Eileen observes, the article is a a good follow up piece for anyone who has read Richard Power’s The Overstory. Another one on our ever expanding reading list!

New York Times‘ article:

Guardian review of The Overstory:

Joy for the Senses and Holidays

To bring you our very best wishes for the Holiday Season, our goal for this Blog post is to flood all your senses with opportunities for joy.  We will need you to help with your imagination and participation, please – our Blog platform doesn’t have an option yet for sharing joyful aromas, tastes and touches with you over the Internet!

Spicing Up The Season

They say that our sense of smell is one of the most powerful avenues into happy memories.  Makes “scents” to us (sorry, Catherine couldn’t resist the bad pun opportunity).

Aromas and tastes that bring us happy associations with festive holiday gatherings over the years include:

  • Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire
  • Clementines
  • Peppermint Candy Canes

We invite you to share with us the smells and tastes that evoke holiday happiness for you.

Nature’s Gifts of Joy-Canadian Winter Birds

Hygge – Feeling Cozy

“Pronounced “hoo-ga,” this Danish concept cannot be translated to one single word but encompasses a feeling of cozy contentment and well-being through enjoying the simple things in life.”

Here’s a cool job title – CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.  With jobs like that there’s good reason why Denmark is at the top of the list of happiest countries in the world! Then again, so is Canada!  Hmmm, maybe it’s a northern climate, winter cozy kind of thing that’s a secret happiness ingredient?

This Country Living article offers the skinny on Hygge and ideas for eliciting more of it this winter —

Delivering Joy and Hope During a Pandemic Holiday Season

Catherine is delighted and proud to discover her friends and neighbours, Nora and Ben, spotlighted for their acts of kindness in spreading holiday joy as featured in this CBC videoclip – perfect timing for our Blog post!

Lucy’s JOY or YOJ

Setting up the decorations, Lucy planted the J block on the bottom as the first letter, building upward to spell “JOY”. Then Allan came over and said “What does “YOJ” mean”? So do we read up or do we read down? To this day, in our household, we sing “YOJ to the World”!

Songs of Joy

Beethoven’s Ode to Joy – Som Sabadell Flashmob Performance

Literally so joyful, and worth sharing this uplifting video again —

David Bowie and Bing Crosby – Little Drummer Boy (Peace on Earth)

Andrea Bocceli – Oh Tannenbaum

Peanuts Gang – Christmas Song (Linus and Lucy) –

The Joy of Movement

Snoopy surely radiates the “joy of movement” in that Christmas Song videoclip!

Read Kelly McGonigal’s science-based book to learn how to fall in love with movement. She shares how “movement can and should be a source of joy,” and suggests a good place to start is with your favourite playlist, and to just get moving however it inspires….

“Through her trademark blend of science and storytelling, McGonigal draws on insights from neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and evolutionary biology, as well as memoirs, ethnographies, and philosophers. She shows how movement is intertwined with some of the most basic human joys, including self-expression, social connection, and mastery–and why it is a powerful antidote to the modern epidemics of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.”

“McGonigal tells the stories of people who have found fulfillment and belonging through running, walking, dancing, swimming, weightlifting, and more, with examples that span the globe, from Tanzania, where one of the last hunter-gatherer tribes on the planet live, to a dance class at Juilliard for people with Parkinson’s disease, to the streets of London, where volunteers combine fitness and community service, to races in the remote wilderness, where athletes push the limits of what a human can endure. Along the way, McGonigal paints a portrait of human nature that highlights our capacity for hope, cooperation, and self-transcendence.”

“The result is a revolutionary narrative that goes beyond familiar arguments in favor of exercise, to illustrate why movement is integral to both our happiness and our humanity. Readers will learn what they can do in their own lives and communities to harness the power of movement to create happiness, meaning, and connection.”   Goodreads:

Here’s a fun bouncy K-pop song for the season that makes us smile and feel like dancing  – aptly called Merry and Happy (2) by TWICE –  Wishing you the “joy of movement” –

A Wonderful World

We leave you with the winningest smile of that ambassador for joy himself —

Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World

Wishing you all the joys and wonder of this special time of year and a Happy, Healthy New Year!

Holiday Spirit this Winter

Photo credit Ava

T’was a Month Before Christmas 2020 🎄

“T’was a month before Christmas, And all through the town, People wore masks, That covered their frown.

The frown had begun, Way back in the Spring, When a global pandemic, Changed everything.

They called it corona, But unlike the beer, It didn’t bring good times, It didn’t bring cheer.

Contagious and deadly,This virus spread fast,Like a wildfire that starts,When fueled by gas.

Airplanes were grounded,Travel was banned,Borders were closed,Across air, sea and land.

As the world entered lockdown,To flatten the curve,The economy halted,And folks lost their verve. 

From March to July, We rode the first wave,People stayed home, They tried to behave.

When summer emerged, The lockdown was lifted, But away from caution, Many folks drifted.

Now it’s November, And cases are spiking, Wave two has arrived, Much to our disliking.

Frontline workers, Doctors and nurses, Try to save people, From riding in hearses.

This virus is awful, This COVID-19, There isn’t a cure, There is no vaccine.

It’s true that this year, Has had sadness a plenty, We’ll never forget, The year 2020. 

And just ‘round the corner, The holiday season, But why be merry? Is there even one reason?

To decorate the house, And put up the tree, When no one will see it, No-one but me. 

But outside my window, The snow gently falls, And I think to myself, Let’s deck the halls!

So, I gather the ribbon, The garland and bows, As I play those old carols, My happiness grows.

Christmas ain’t cancelled, And neither is hope, If we lean on each other, I know we can cope.”

By: Shawna Hickling, Calgary, AB, Canada

November 19, 2020

Shining Lights to Brighten the Spirit

Photo credit Ava

We all are looking to find holiday spirit this year. This poem reminds me that the beauty of a day outdoors with snow falling on the trees and the twinkling lights on houses can give us some much needed joy, and bringing the beautiful light indoors by putting up a Christmas tree and lighting candles warms our hearts. Even bringing along a hot chocolate and going to see the festive lights around town is something that can bring joy. (Luckily with all the LED lights we do not have to worry as much about the energy being used.) These photos are from Candy Cane Lane in St. Albert this year. Thank you to Ava for sharing them.

Photo credit Lucy

Here in Edmonton, the winter city, we have a few light up Winter Wonderlands to walk through or drive through:

Zoominesence: A Festival of Lights until January 3 at the Edmonton Valley Zoo where you can skate, create a craft, admire the installations and generally brighten up your night. This festival celebrates light, artistry, imagination and the spirit of our winter community.

Photo credit Ava

Winter Wonder Forest until January 3 at Rainbow Valley Campground where you can look at the more than 115000 square feet of campground that is transformed into a breathtaking Holiday light display viewed from the warmth of your vehicle. You can book your spot at

Luminaria until December 31 at the University of Alberta Botanical Gardens where you can escape to an oasis of peace and light. Stroll the candle-lit pathways of the Kurimoto Japanese Garden, sip hot apple cider beside a bonfire, enjoy a cappella singers and spot snow sprites in the glittering ice sculptures.

We have just gone with our friends Liane and Terry to the Devonian Botanical Gardens for Luminaria and it was simply magical. There is a cost, and you need to book a scheduled time. It is stunning how many candles glow along the path in the Japanese garden. Here are some photos I grabbed of the lights.

I am certain every city in Canada has such adventures.

Memorable Experiences Outdoors

Ava’s children having a blast tobogganing Photo credit Ava

Other experiences we can share outdoors can include a simple walk, a snow shoe walk, skating, tobogganing, and cross country skiing. We can still enjoy the great outdoor togetherness, COVID has not taken that away from us! Lucy has several walking buddies which always makes the hikes more enjoyable. She also finally has linked up the Edmonton Public Library with an app to her phone (Libby by Overdrive) that allows her to walk while listening to library audio books. This gets her off the couch as she enjoys a good story, and usually makes her walk farther and get more steps! Walking in the Whitemud Ravine is known for its opportunity to see birds, so bring some bird seed and have a chickadee eat out of your hands. One time we had some seeds and shared them with a family with 4 little children and it melted our hearts to see how happy they all were having chickadees repeatedly land on their hands to feed.

Photo credit Lucy

This year when we are less likely to be able to sit around the table to dine together or around the tree to open gifts, we need to find these outdoor experiences to share time together. Lucy’s newest favourite saying is “There is no bad weather, just bad gear” so just bundle up. We are getting great use of our trekkers to put on our boots to avoid slipping. Other upcoming winter adventures to look forward to in Edmonton: from January 11-12 is the Deep Freeze Byzantine Winter Festival on Alberta Avenue and all of February is the Silverskate Festival at Hawrelak Park. And remember the joy of flapping arms and legs to make snow angels 🙂

Handcraft Some Awesome DIY Gifts

Everyone who has a hobby or talent might think about sharing them this year more than ever. There is nothing nicer than getting a home made piece of art from a child, a plate of baking from a friend, a knit scarf from your Mom, a family traditional dish from a friend. Some of our friends reading this blog may think we are writing this especially for them, but really we are not (wink wink nod nod)! Lucy loves having received anitpasto and home made jelly and hand crafted cards, and unique tree ornaments, and the videos of a song played on the piano or sung. Lucy’s Mom has dementia, and so we have been singing familiar carols while FaceTiming, (even though we do not all have great voices), and this has given us all great joy and a memory for a lifetime! Some of us have more time now to dust off our craft supplies or our baking trays and get creative.

Here’s one of Catherine’s favourite roasted nut recipes to fill your home with a welcoming warm aroma of brown sugar and rosemary for a tasty treat. A double batch might make extras and a nice gift for a friend or neighbour to enjoy too. Nigella Lawson’s Union Cafe Bar Nuts recipe:

Creating a thoughtful basket with favourite consumable products would be a lovely way to present your DIY gifts. We especially love nature projects, using evergreen boughs, twine and candles to create a beautiful table setting or door hanging to brighten up the season and bring some of the outdoors in. Lucy is now into watercolor painting and still makes jewelry, and cherry jelly, so she plans to gift these with family and friends.

A Year to Think About Others In Need

This year when so many people are struggling to feed their family, and we hear on the news about food scarcity, we can give of our time to create and deliver food baskets. We can donate to the Food Bank when we go to the grocery store or online. All charities are in great need, and if you missed Giving Tuesday last week, that is okay, because everyday is a good time to give. With this blog we are aware of more environmental causes that give back to Mother Earth such as “Trees Canada” where you can gift trees to your family and friends. You can donate to “4Oceans” to help clean up the plastics. Everyone has their favourite charities. Consider giving again for those who cannot give this year. Lucy just came across an Edmonton group on Facebook that is linking donors to families in need. It is called Reindeer Exchange, and the focus is providing gifts to the children in the family. We find giving back is so good for the soul, and brings happiness to others and to ourselves.


We have pre-arranged with some friends to re-gift books we have already read. It makes us happy to share a favourite read, and avoids the accumulation of books on the shelves to dust. In Catherine’s neighbourhood several houses have Little Free Libraries; another way for randomly sharing a good read while out for a walk. This re-gifting can also be a fun exchange at work, as we all likely have unused gifts at home to swap, and it takes all the pressure out of more serious gift exchanges. A can of spam was a memorable fun gift item Lucy recalls from a staff party almost 20 years ago.

If you are looking for some book ideas, here are a few favourite books that Lucy has recently read:

  • Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
  • Red Notice by Bill Browder
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • American Dirt by Janine Cummins
  • Where the Crawdags Sing by Delia Owens

Gift an Experience

“We may not be able to travel or go to concerts and sporting events right now, but once COVID restrictions are lifted and it’s safe to do so, we have a feeling that many people will be itching to make up for lost time. So gift something that can be enjoyed in the future, like tickets to a rescheduled game, comedy show, play, or concert, a fun day trip, a museum membership, guitar lessons, or even a gift card to a favorite local restaurant or business. You’ll be supporting a local business and giving your recipient something to look forward to!” Stole this idea from One Tree Planted.

We can’t wait for Spring and the start of a new gardening season. This makes us think about ideas for gifting our time and labour, e.g., offering a day’s labour to help with hauling soil and preparing the garden for planting, or perhaps helping to paint a room with a cheery, energizing new colour to give lift to the start of a New Year.

Favourite Zoom Choir Song

Here is a link to a cover of Maroon 5’s song “Memories” sung on zoom by One Voice Children’s choir. This moved us so much this year, and is very uplifting.

We hope you are able to find the spirit of the season this year. Maybe reach out and call an old friend. Lucy recalls years ago when her daughter Brenna was age 12 and was singing Carols with her good friend Kelly at the Sherwood Park Mall. After they finished a woman came up and said, “Today I found the spirit of the season when you sang O Holy Night. Thank you so much.” That was a special moment. Wishing you many such special moments this year.

Lucy’s neighbour Mike’s house, photo credit Lucy

Tree Planting in the Millions

Two inspiring tree stories came across our desks and we wanted to share them with you here. One is set in India and one is set in Brazil. As well we will detail Canada’s Fall Economic Statement that has just been released as it pertains to a ‘green recovery’ and a ‘green economy’.



Image from One Tree Planted

“One Tree Planted is thrilled to share that despite the challenges of COVID-19, over 1 million fruit trees were planted in India this year!  As one of the world’s largest food producers, it is an unfortunate irony that the sub-continent of India is also home to the largest population of hungry people in the world. As people have lost their jobs and incomes due to the pandemic, food insecurity has skyrocketed among those already vulnerable.”

“Especially impacted are small farmers across India, who face droughts, floods, fluctuating markets, and now a pandemic. Meanwhile, many water sources are drying up as rivers are diverted, and climate change brings more extreme and less predictable weather patterns.”

“Trees once shaded the landscape and kept soil and moisture in place, but in many parts of rural India, trees have historically been cleared for the expansion of farmland. Today, people are realizing the many benefits of planting trees to help green India and combat hunger.”


“One Tree Planted has partnered with Sustainable Green Initiative (SGI), a local organization of India, with one simple but powerful objective: to plant (mostly) fruit trees to fight hunger, poverty and climate change. Under this model, fruit tree saplings are distributed for 1-3 years in community lands, homesteads of marginal farmers, government school campuses, orphanages, old age homes, and other places of need.”

“To date, over 6,500 farmers — mostly in regions reeling under severe drought — have benefitted. With the help of dedicated local “tree ambassadors”, farmers are given fruit trees and encouraged to practice organic and sustainable farming practices. In this way, planting trees helps foster environmental consciousness and sustainability in rural communities.”

“Planting fruit trees also helps fight hunger and poverty — but it goes much further than that, aligning with several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by contributing to clean water and sanitation, decent work and economic growth, and climate action and biodiversity conservation. Furthermore, these efforts generate local employment at nurseries, specifically benefitting woman and other marginalized groups.” 

Photo credit Lucy


“Several Indian States, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, are prone to severe drought. This leads to hunger as crops fail regionally. But where seasonal crops will wither under drought, mature trees can endure by using their long root networks to tap into the water table.”

“Trees planted include lemon, guava, custard apple, gooseberry, pomegranate, jack fruit, wood apple, and tamarind. All are native trees that produce a high yield of fruit seasonally or year round. As these trees mature and yield fruit, they ensure food for local people during difficult times, acting as an insurance policy during times of drought or pandemic-induced insecurity.”

Image from One Tree Planted


“While parts of India suffer from drought, other low-lying areas like West Bengal and Odisha are threatened with coastal erosion and rising sea levels. The watery labyrinth of deltas and estuaries where the the Ganges River spills into the Bay of Bengal is prone to a continuous process of erosion and siltation. In this region, extensive mangrove ecosystems help stabilize the land where it meets the sea in the largest mangrove forest in the world, the Sunderbans.”

“Earlier this year, One Tree Planted and SGI planted over 51,000 mangrove seedlings in the Sunderbans, with help from 20 staff and 40 volunteers. Previously, mud and concrete embankments have protected villages from coastal erosion. But these are prone to collapse, resulting in catastrophic flooding of farmlands, schools and homes. Seeding mangroves has helped to rekindle hope among local people for the future of their villages and livelihoods.”

“The growing mangrove forests will help protect the coastline from erosion and prevent salt water from infiltrating the delta islands and turning freshwater wells saline. Additionally, mangroves provide many vital ecosystem services. They help reduce the impact of waves on the shore, and trap sediment between their roots to create their own soil, and help keep low-lying coastal areas above water as sea levels rise.” 

“Mangrove forests also punch above their weight in carbon sequestration. In fact, research indicates that, pound for pound, mangroves can sequester more carbon than rainforests. In land-based forests, organic matter like leaves and branches are quickly broken down by bacteria and fungi in the soil, releasing carbon. But since mangroves are waterlogged and have a different microbial community, organic matter isn’t broken down and the carbon stays locked up in the soils.”

Stock image Mangroves


“Despite the many challenges of planting in the midst of a global pandemic, One Tree Planted is proud to have planted a staggering 1,130,530 fruit trees and mangrove seedlings across 1,500 hectares. It is estimated that approximately 25,000 farming families will be impacted positively by creating food sources for themselves and their families from this project, and that these trees will sequester 5,000 tonnes of carbon in the next two years!”

“Focusing on small farmers and woman’s groups that are food insecure, this ongoing project maximizes its impact. By working with village leaders and community organizations, fast-growing and high yielding fruit tree saplings are provided to those in need, expertise is shared, and a green movement continues to grow.”

“One Tree Planted is  already gearing up to plant even more fruit trees across India in 2021.” Be a part of the movement with a donation if you like!

Jesse Lewis | November 19, 2020/One Tree Planted Newsletter


Famed Photographer Sebastião Salgado Plants Two Million Trees With His Wife And 20 Years Later, Creates New Forest

Thank you to Leslie for bringing the inspiring work of Sebastião Salgado and his wife Lélia to our awareness.

By Natasha Ishak Published April 26, 2019 Updated January 8, 2020 at:

“Growing deforestation is a big issue for the sustainability of our environment. But individuals like famed photographer Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado and his wife Lélia are trying to save it. The Brazilian couple started a project to plant two million trees and now, 20 years later, the seeds have grown into a lush forest in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil.”

Photo credit Lucy

It all started in 1994 when Salgado had just returned home from a traumatic project covering the devastations of the genocide in Rwanda. Looking to heal himself, Salgado decided to take a break by taking up the family farm which was located in the Minas Gerais area. But what he saw there devastated him even more: what was once a rich forest had morphed into a severely damaged landscape due to rampant deforestation and disappearing wildlife. However, the damaged environment sparked inspiration in Salgado’s wife Lélia, who came up with the idea to replant the forest. What sounded like an impossible feat was realized in the founding of Instituto Terra, an environmental organization dedicated to the sustainable development of the area of the Valley of the River Roce just four years later. The 1,754-acre forest, once a barren land, has transformed back into its original state as a tropical paradise since the Instituto Terra planted those two million trees. The healthy ecosystem of the new forest has facilitated the regrowth of hundreds of species of plants and has seen the return of wildlife. The area, which now holds official status as a Private Natural Heritage Reserve, is home to an estimated 293 species of trees, 172 species of birds, 33 types of mammals, and 15 species of amphibians and reptiles, many of which are endangered. On top of the rejuvenated flora and fauna, the area has also gotten back its naturally-flowing springs.”

“In a meeting with religious leaders discussing the effects of climate change, Salgado reinforced the concept of tying together spirituality with the environment around us, one of the important lessons he has learned from his family’s reforestation efforts. Now many modern religious communities are adopting these principles too such as Bishop Shoo in Tanzania and Bishop Kyamanywa in Uganda.” (

Forest trees decorated by hikers. Photo credit Lucy

Canada’s Fall Economic Statement, 2020

The federal government’s November 30, 2020 Fall Economic Statement understandably continues to give priority to fighting COVID-19 and “protecting Canadians’ health and safety,” as it states in this press release for its Supporting Canadians and Fighting COVID-19: Fall Economic Statement 2020.

Even as such, we find positive signs in the Fall Economic Statement 2020 that the government’s longer-term approach to Canada’s recovery beyond the pandemic will emphasize investments in a green recovery and green economy. In fact, Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland expressly makes the commitment:

“Our government’s plan is focused on fighting this pandemic, supporting Canadians and ensuring that once the virus is defeated we can invest in growth and jobs for everyone. We will do whatever it takes to help Canadians through this crisis. We will invest in every necessary public health measure. We will support Canadians and Canadian businesses in a way that is targeted and effective. And we will ensure the Canadian economy that emerges from this pandemic is greener, more inclusive, more innovative, and more competitive than the one that preceded it, with a stronger, more resilient middle class.”

– The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance 

Photo credit Lucy

Noteably, the government reaffirms that “Canada remains strongly committed to meeting and exceeding its Paris targets and achieving net-zero by 2050.”

In the section called “Build Back Better,” these are the government’s statements and proposed plans for a “Competitive, Green Economy”:

“The government has committed to putting climate action at the heart of its plan to create a million jobs. These will be good middle class jobs for today and for the decades to come. The investments made in Fall Economic Statement 2020 will lay the foundation for a green recovery that will create opportunities for all Canadians.”

Helping Canadians Take Climate Action

“By supporting efforts to make homes greener and more energy efficient, Canadians can reduce their carbon footprint and lower their energy bills. Investments in building ZEV charging stations in the places Canadians live, work and travel will help accelerate Canadians’ use of zero-emission vehicles.”

Proposed Investments

  • $2.6 billion over 7 years to provide up to 700,000 grants of up to $5,000 to help homeowners make energy-efficient improvements to their homes, up to 1 million free EnerGuide energy assessments, and support to recruit and train EnerGuide energy auditors to meet increased demand.
  • Build on current investments in zero-emission vehicles infrastructure by providing an additional $150 million over 3 years to help ensure that charging and refuelling stations are available and conveniently located where and when they are needed.
  • $25 million to help bring clean power to more communities by investing in predevelopment work for large-scale transmission projects. Building strategic interties will support Canada’s coal phase-out.

Nature-based Climate Solutions – 2 Billion Trees

Investing in nature, and its protection, is among the most affordable climate action governments can take. Forests, wetlands and oceans, absorb and store enormous amounts of carbon, which can mitigate the impacts of climate change, and keep our air and water clean.”

Proposed Investments

  • $3.19 billion over 10 years, starting in 2021-22, to Natural Resources Canada to work with the provinces, territories, non-governmental organizations, Indigenous communities, federal landowners, municipalities, and others to plant 2 billion trees to fight climate change, protect forests and create good jobs.
  • $631 million over 10 years, starting in 2021-22, to Environment and Climate Change Canada to restore degraded ecosystems, protect wildlife, and improve land and resource management practices.
  • $98.4 million over 10 years, starting in 2021-22, to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to establish a new Natural Climate Solutions for Agriculture Fund.

Building the Foundation of a Net-zero Carbon Future

“Canada remains strongly committed to meeting and exceeding its Paris targets and achieving net-zero by 2050. The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act was recently introduced in Parliament and is an important part of Canada’s work to address the threat of climate change and bring together innovations from across the financial sector, businesses, communities and Canadians themselves. This legislation would legally bind the government to a process to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and require the government to report annually on key measures that the federal government, including Crown Corporations, has taken to manage climate-related financial risks and opportunities.”

To read the full Budget statement text:

We recognize that fighting the COVID-19 pandemic is of necessity everyone’s top priority, with the focus on the environment having taken back seat temporarily. We are pleased to see the funding earmarked to begin implementing the government’s commitment to plant 2 billion trees. Friends4Trees4Life will be keeping this pledge on our radar! In the meantime, keep safe!

Book Suggestion: Harry’s Trees

If you are looking for a light, uplifting fantasy set in a forest, we can recommend Harry’s Trees. A sweet escape written by Jon Cohen