Uncategorised

  • Decreasing Single-use Plastics through the Living Planet Leader Certification

    Blog Contributor: Chyna-Rose Bennett

    Brock has partnered with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada for the Living Planet at Campus project. Students will be able to participate in conservation activities on campus, in their communities, and even globally because of this cooperation. The partnership gives students a certification showing their involvement in the community and academia through ways of volunteering, a personal application, academics, leadership, as well as teamwork. The idea behind the certification is that the actions each of us take towards sustainability is important and influences combating climate change (Brock University).

    The Personal Application

    One aspect of the certification is the personal application. This is used to show how an individual has contributed to sustainability by completing a self-guided checklist of solution-based actions. A brief reflection on the positive personal and environmental impact is included with each checklist item (Brock University).

    Decreasing Single-use Plastics

    A topic covered in a few of the actions in the checklist is conservation through the reusing of resources. These include bringing your own mug/coffee cup, using reusable containers for food, bringing reusable bags for grocery shopping, as well as refusing the use of plastic straws and cutlery when eating out. All these actions require an individual to bring these items with them, thus reducing the amount of waste they generate. These actions are important because it limits the amount of single-use plastic generated and thrown into landfills. It is a simple sustainable action that can be done at an individual level, but results in a large overall change. Every year, up to 15 billion plastic bags are used in Canada, and about 57 million straws are used every day (Environment Canada, 2021).

    So, remember if you are going grocery shopping, bring a reusable bag; if you are going to a coffee shop, bring a reusable cup/mug; and if you are eating out, bring a reusable straw and cutlery and remember to refuse any plastic items. These simple steps could have a large impact if everyone made this change.

    The change starts with you!

    References:

    Brock University. WWF-Canada Living Planet @ Campus partnership. Brock University. (n.d.). Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://brocku.ca/sustainability/wwf-canada-living-planet-campus-partnership/

    Environment and Climate Change Canada (2021, July 12). Canada one-step closer to zero plastic waste by 2030. Canada.ca. Retrieved February 15, 2022, from https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/news/2020/10/canada-one-step-closer-to-zero-plastic-waste-by-2030.html

  • Buying Gently Used for a More Sustainable Lifestyle

    Blog Contributor: Allegra Caballero 

    Brock is a Living Planet @ Campus partner with WWF-Canada, giving students the opportunity to become a Living Planet Leader. This nationally recognized self-guided certification can be earned through conservative and sustainable initiatives made during students’ post-secondary careers. To earn the certification, students must complete 4 category requirements:

    Leadership & Teamwork: this category requires students to get involved in leadership and teamwork—like by joining a club or participating in an event—that has delivery of environmental or sustainable awareness or action.

    Application of Sustainability in Academics: this category requires students to take a sustainability or conservation course or apply sustainability to an aspect of existing courses.

    Campus, Community or Global Volunteerism: this category requires students to complete 40 volunteer hours in an area related to environment, sustainability or conservation.

    Personal Application of Sustainability: this category requires students to demonstrate personal contributions to sustainability by completing 40 actions from a personal checklist.

    Living sustainably involves thinking about what goes into making your belongings and what will happen to them after you no longer need them. If you’re looking to make changes to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, consider buying gently used items instead of new. On the personal application checklist, this is #7 (donating gently used items for reuse) and #24 (buying gently used instead of new!)

    Why Gently Used?
    Buying items gently used has a positive environmental and social impact. Not only does it reduce carbon emissions and lower your carbon-footprint, it also saves a lot of resources such as energy and water. Gently used items usually cost you less money, too. Most importantly, by buying something used you’re preventing it from being thrown away and keeping it out of landfills. This keeps the item’s lifecycle going.

    Before You Buy.
    It’s important to know where your things come from and how they’re made. When you’re thinking about buying something, do some quick research to find out how and where the item was made (Locally made? Sustainable materials and packaging?) and where it will end up when you’re done using it.

    Of course, it’s not always possible to buy everything used, but try your best to make sure you only buy something new when you absolutely need to do so.

    What Do I Do When I Don’t Need it Anymore?
    If you find that you no longer use or want an item anymore and can’t repurpose and use it for something else, try seeing if a friend or a family member can use it. If they can’t, then donating gently used items (clothing, household, etc.) to charities, donation centres and thrift shops for reuse is the way to go.

    If you have something that can’t be donated, disassemble and recycle what you can. If you have an item you aren’t sure how to recycle or dispose of properly, search for it using this tool by the Niagara Region and it will tell you how. Aren’t local to Niagara? Check out your city’s website and see what helpful information they offer on recycling and waste disposal in your area.

    To learn more about the Living Planet @ Campus Program at Brock University, click here.

  • Eco-anxiety: What is it and how to manage it

    Blog Contributor: Alexandra Cotrufo

    Photo by Mushroomhead

    Climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, forest degradation… If hearing these terms sparks feelings of fear, dread, anger, and sadness, you are not alone. The current environmental crisis has obvious impacts on the health of the planet, but it can also have extreme impacts on the mental and physical health of the humans living on it.

    Eco-anxiety refers to persistent worries about the environment and the future of the planet. It is caused by negative changes in the earth’s climate and can be experienced directly (I.e., from witnessing a heavily polluted beach) or indirectly (I.e., from hearing about a forest fire through a news channel). Symptoms of eco-anxiety include (but are not limited to) trauma, shock, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, guilt, anger, sadness, and frustration. There are also other terms associated with eco-anxiety and our connection with the environment, such as solsalgia, which is used to describe emotional or existential distress caused by climate change, and topophilia, which is used to describe one’s bond with the environment and their mental, emotional, and cognitive ties to a place.

    Eco-anxiety is not currently listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which means it is not officially considered a diagnosable condition. However, mental health professionals and researchers are increasingly looking into the impacts of climate change on mental health and ways to combat and treat feelings of eco-anxiety. It is completely normal to worry about the health of the environment and the future of the planet – it means you care about climate change and want to see the implementation of sustainable environmental solutions! But excessive worry can interfere with daily life and make it difficult to accomplish simple tasks.

    If you find yourself anxious and stressed about climate change, here are five things you can do to ease your fear and improve your overall wellbeing.

    1. Acknowledge your feelings

     The first step in dealing with eco-anxiety is to acknowledge your feelings and understand that they are completely valid and normal. A recent Climate Access report on Canadians’ opinions about climate change found that 45% of respondents are worried about the state of the environment and 25% are truly alarmed. There are many people in the world who share the same feelings you might have about climate change, so it’s important to remember that you are not alone and there are others who also care about the environment and want to create meaningful change.

    1. Talk about it 

    Even though there are others who also experience feelings of eco-anxiety, it’s easy to feel alone when grappling with your emotions. Try to talk about your feelings and experiences with friends, family, and confidants. Talking through things with others can help you see things from a different perspective and alleviate some of the burden that comes with keeping your thoughts bottled up. You may also find that your loved ones share similar feelings with you, which you might find comfort in knowing.

    1. Take a break

    Engaging in climate action can take a toll on your mind and body. It’s critical that you take a break whenever you feel you need one to disconnect from your phone/computer and focus on some psychological self-care. As put so perfectly in the national bestselling book All We Can Save (which we highly recommend reading!), “A stressed-out body and mind work less efficiently and effectively…By contrast, a balanced, resilient mind is a kinder and more compassionate, alert, productive, and effective mind.” So, take a walk, watch some guilty pleasure TV, go to the movies, hangout with friends, or do anything else that gets your mind off the state of the environment for a bit. Your body will thank you. 

    1. Maintain a healthy routine

    Having a routine can help you feel more in control of your life and can reduce the stress that comes along with uncertainty and chaos. When environmental health and climate change feel out of your control, focus on the things in your life that you can control like your school, work, relationships, and hobbies. Make sure you’re also getting enough sleep and at least 30 minutes of daily exercise to help clear your mind and keep you feeling refreshed and alert.

    1. Do what you can

    Climate action can be extremely overwhelming, and it’s difficult to know what exactly you should be doing to contribute to a more sustainable world. Small tasks can often feel meaningless or like they do not hold a lot of weight, but it’s important to remember that every step is a step in the right direction. It’s impossible for one person to fix the mistakes of millions, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have all the answers and be a “perfect” environmentalist. Whatever you’re able to do, do it! Some weeks you may be able to do more than others. But whether you pass on the straw or join a protest, remember that you are doing what you can.

    If you find yourself struggling to cope with eco-anxiety and these tips do not work for you, please seek professional support to get the help you need. Brock’s Personal Counselling Services are available to all Brock students and are offered as part of the ancillary fees that students pay annually. Remember to always be kind to yourself. You are not alone. We are in the fight for climate justice together.

    References:

    https://www.psd.gov.sg/challenge/ideas/trends/eco-anxiety-the-psychological-impact-of-climate-change

    https://www.healthline.com/health/eco-anxiety#is-it-normal

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1277882/

    https://www.climatepsychologyalliance.org/handbook/451-eco-anxiety#:~:text=Coined%20by%20the%20philosopher%20Glenn,is%20subject%20to%20environmental%20degradation

    https://climateaccess.org/blog/what-do-canadians-really-think-about-climate-change

     

  • Buying Local and Sustainably Through the Winter

    Blog Contributor: Madison Lepp

    Eating locally and in season is a great way to be more environmentally conscious. Unfortunately, during the cold Canadian winter months, this becomes much more difficult. It is easy to forget about seasonal eating with modern-day food processing and worldwide distribution. Nevertheless, there are still many important reasons for eating seasonally and ways to shop locally in these cold months.

    What does eating seasonally mean?

    Just because something is available in the grocery store does not mean it’s in season. Simply put, eating seasonally means eating the fruits, vegetables, and grains that are naturally grown in abundance during specific times of the year.

    Why is it important?

    Eating seasonally not only has environmental benefits but this practice also is often less costly, decreases your carbon footprint, and supports the local community.

    Out of season produce is shipped very far distances to reach our grocery store shelves. For example, strawberries can’t grow in our cold Canadian winter, so grocery stores often source them from the United States or South America. Transportation from these places is very resource intense, creating greenhouse gas emissions. Although, that’s not to say that strawberries and other produce can’t be grown in greenhouses here in Niagara.

    How to shop locally & in season…

    • Check out your local Farmers market or “on-farm” markets
    • Look for Foodland Ontario logos or “Product of Canada” on the packaging
    • Buy locally frozen and canned varieties

    Here is a list of vegetables widely available in season right now (December-February):

    Apples, Beets, Cabbage, Carrots, Cucumber*, Garlic, Leeks, Lettuce*, Peppers*, Potatoes, Mushrooms, Onions, Parsnips, Rhubarb, Rutabaga, Sprouts, Squash, Tomatoes*.

    *Denotes greenhouse grown fruits/vegetables

    Winter’s Farmers Markets in and around Southern Ontario:

    Some winter recipes ideas, using in seasons produce to spark your interest!

    Pumpkin Apple Muffins

    Apple Cinnamon Waffles with Honey

    Leek Potato Soup

    Butternut Squash Lasagna

    Vegan Cabbage Rolls

    Apple Crisp

    Rhubarb Crumble Bars

  • How to Have a Sustainable 2022

    Blog Contributor: Madison Lepp

    The new year is always a great time to consider making positive changes – there are many small changes an individual can take on to create a more sustainable lifestyle. Here are some suggestions for living sustainably in 2022 and new year’s resolutions to take into consideration…

    1. Shop Smarter

    Aim to only buy what you need and will consume or use. Shifting your mindset to think of the resources we have as limited, will allow you to use them more conservatively in the new year. Aim to shop locally and support independent businesses where possible. Think about whether the item you are buying is sustainably sourced, ethically produced, high quality, and long-lasting. Ask yourself – Do I need it? Where is this product from, who made it, and what is it made of? How is it packaged? How can it be disposed of after use? Can I buy a used or thrifted version of the product? 

    New year’s resolution idea: Switch to buying Fairtrade and locally roasted coffee beans! 

    2. Save Energy

    Globally, about 78% of GHG emissions from human activity are from the production and consumption of energy. Wasting less energy is a simple way to reduce your carbon footprint and requires very little effort! Simply turn off light switches, switch your bulbs to LEDs, wash laundry on a cooler setting, and/or air-dry clothing to reduce your household energy usage. Properly insulating your home is also a great way to reduce the energy needed to keep your home warm this winter. A plus to this is that you will also lower your energy bill!  

     New Year’s resolution idea: Only wash full loads of laundry and wash on cold! 

    3. Slow Fashion Only

    Did you know that according to Fashion Checker, 93% of brands are not paying garment workers a living wage? Or that, Clothing production is the third biggest manufacturing industry (after automotive and technology) and that textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined. The hard truth is that more than 500 billion dollars of value is lost every year due to underutilization and lack of recycling. We oftentimes think of garments as short-term tools, contributing to wasteful consumption patterns that inevitably leading the world toward drastic climate change. We must shift this to thinking of garments as long-term investments. Try asking yourself: Is this an item I need and will use until the end of its lifecycle? How will I dispose of this clothing item at the end of its lifecycle? Will I love this item in 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years? Who made this item and were they paid fairly? A great resource to ensure the brand you are purchasing from has good intentions is the website/app Good On You.

    New year’s resolution idea: Only purchase one clothing item a month or have a one in – one out rule! 

    4. Waste Not

    Over the past 50 years, world plastic production has doubled – bringing the weight of production up to 300 million tonnes every year! To put that into perspective, that’s equivalent to the weight of the entire human population. To make matters worse only 9% of all plastic produced is recycled. At times plastic seems to be scary and unavoidable but it is still possible to reduce the amount of single use plastic you consume! Always pay attention to the products you buy and brands you support. Make sure to dispose of and recycle everything you use correctly; opt for compostable items where possible; and check out TerraCycle schemes. If you can: donate, pass on, or sell something before disposing of it – this is always your best option. Making zero waste swaps is a great way to reduce waste! Here is a list of 50+ Zero waste swaps to try!  

    New Year’s resolution idea: Commit to one zero waste swap a month or set a rule of thumb to only purchase 10% or 20% plastic items at the supermarket.  

    5. Embrace and Support Mother Nature

    It’s scientifically proven that spending time outside can reduce stress, encourage creativity, and promote better immune system functions. Studies have shown that even just 20 minutes per day spent in nature can lower stress hormone levels, boost self-esteem, and improve mood. Spend more time outside and show nature appreciation by planting trees, wildflowers, and pollinator friendly plants; picking up litter while you walk; adding bird feeders to your yard; and/or supporting a wildlife charity! 

     New year’s resolution idea: Create a regular date with nature! 

     

     

     

  • Sustainable Holiday Gift Guide

    Blog Contributor: Alexandra Cotrufo

    Holiday gifts surrounded by the title Sustainable Gift Guide

    It’s officially December, and if you haven’t already started, you’re probably getting ready to purchase holiday gifts for all your loved ones! The gift-giving season is an opportunity to show your appreciation for those who have been by your side throughout the year. While it’s fun to go out (or go online) and buy the perfect gifts for the people in your life, holiday consumerism has a negative impact on the health of the planet because we generate 30% more waste over the festive season. 

    Each year, the shopping frenzy seems to start earlier and earlier. This year, some retailers started marketing and displaying holiday gifts as early as September, with the reasoning being that gifts may take longer to arrive because of delays caused by COVID-19. While less money was spent on gifts last year due to gathering and shopping restrictions, Canadian holiday spending is expected to increase by 29% this year. The intention behind giving a gift is usually positive, but unfortunately, many gifts given during the holidays get prematurely thrown out and end up in landfills alongside excessive amounts of wrapping paper, tape, plastic, and decorations. In addition, the growing popularity of online shopping has resulted in more packaging waste and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. 

    But there is good news! Consumers are becoming more aware of how their shopping habits can contribute to climate change, and 45% of Canadians who participated in a Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwCsurvey said they are extremely likely to shop from socially and environmentally responsible retailers this year. If you’re looking to do the same, here is a gift guide of some sustainable and local products sure to bring a smile to anyone on your shopping list. If you’re interested in purchasing any of these giftsand if it’s feasible, try shopping in-person rather than online to further reduce your carbon footprint. Also be sure to check out our previous blog post about tips for green gift giving! 

    1. Aija Candle Studio Soy Candle from Bioterra Eco Shop 

    Hand-poured in small batches in London, ONAija candles are made with 100% organic soy wax and are free of petroleum, lead, paraffin, pesticides, phthalate, and dyes. Bioterra Eco Shop is located in St. Catharines and helps fantastic, ethically made products find their way into the hearts of eco-conscious individuals. 

    2. Small Scale Farms Produce Box Subscription 

    Located in Allanburg, ON, Small Scale Farms offers a produce box service where you can buy a crateful of local fruits and vegetables as a one-time purchase or signup for their subscription service to receive a box on a weekly or monthly basis. In addition, for every subscription box sold, they donate one box to someone in need within the Niagara region. 

    3. Beechwood Doughnuts Gift Card

    Beechwood Doughnuts is Niagara’s first and only 100% vegan doughnut shop. Located in the heart of Downtown St. Catharines, Beechwood Doughnuts proves that plant-based foods can be just as delicious as they are compassionate. Beechwood is a proud partner of YWCA Niagara Region and an Ontario Living Wage Employer. 

    4. Rise Above Restaurant & Bakery Gift Card 

    Rise Above is Niagara’s first 100% vegan restaurant and bakery and is located just minutes from Brock’s main campus! They specialize in delicious comfort foods, healthy choices, and fresh baked desserts. 

    5. {pocket}CHANGE Blue & Tan Waffle Weave Scarf 

    This local shop was created to support artisans in the St. Catharines community. A portion of every purchase, such as the purchase of this fair-trade and handmade scarf, is donated to organizations working to improve health and wellness, education, and the environment. 

    6. Guess Where Trips 

    Guess Where Trips is run by female Canadians who create exciting itineraries that allow travelers to discover new places across Ontario they would have never seen before. They even have some local trips within the Niagara Region! Be sure to reach out to the extremely kind business owners for details on local trips. (Tip: opt for the PDF version of the trip itinerary to save on packaging and delivery emissions!) 

    A final note to remember during this holiday season: while gift-giving can be a fun experience for many, it can also be an incredibly stressful time for others. Several factors such as cost, expectations to get the perfect gift, and large shopping crowds among others can make it difficult to purchase gifts. It’s important to remember that sometimes, the best gifts are priceless experiences which make memories that will last far beyond the lifespan of a materialistic gift. If you can’t afford to buy a gift this year, try making one with materials you have readily available to you or organize an excursion to a nearby town! There are plenty of ways to give joy this holiday season without adding stress to you or the environment. 

  • It wasn’t all blue skies at COP26: A look at the conference from the eyes of activists

    Blog Contributors: Alexandra Cotrufo and Madison Lepp

    Introduction

    COP26 – the conference aimed at tackling current environmental, social, and economic challenges which took place earlier this month – was an event that started with hope and ambition but ended with anger and disappointment for many. For a more thorough review of what happened over the two-week period, you can read our What Happened at COP26? The Summit in Review blog post. The annual conference aimed to bring world leaders together to agree on promises to reduce environmental degradation and provide relief and support for our most vulnerable communities. Concerned citizens and climate activists were hoping COP26 would be an opportunity for leaders to finally commit to ending the burning of fossil fuels by 2030, a critical decision needed to prevent global temperatures from rising above 1.5°C according to the IPCC special report. Instead, powerful governments settled on compromises which put the interests of the fossil fuel industry ahead of the survival of humanity.  

    From the very first day of the conference, activists were on standby inside and outside the front doors of the Scottish Event Campus to hold government leaders accountable for their actions and past promises. Over the following eleven days, many protests broke out on the streets of Glasgow in response to the lack of action being taken toward climate justice, the failure to provide accessibility to the conference, and the prominence of greenwashing. 

    Problems

    Many delegates and activists travelled long distances to get to COP26. To their surprise, many barriers came in the way of them entering the venue. Organizers, who issued accreditation for 39,000+ people to access a 10,000-person capacity venue, were criticized for not accommodating the capacities. Participants who traveled far distances were told to return to their hotels and watch the event from the online broadcast. Although the organizing groups blamed the pandemic, those who planned to attend the conference virtually were also let down by the limited opportunities to interact in the various events. Participating virtually only allowed for viewing and did not allow for the raising of hands or asking of questions. This limited the number of members who were able to participate from the Global Southparticularly Indigenous communities. Furthermore, despite the conferences promotion of ensuring inclusivity, little work was done to uphold this. With no wheelchair access and no sign language interpreters on stagemany accused the conference of being exclusionary and ableist. 

    Marginalized groups and minority communities are those most hit by the harsh effects of climate change while also being the least responsible for it. For this reason, their voices should be at the center of climate action. CNN interviews with dozens of underrepresented groups revealed the harsh truths of COP26Throughout the conference, underrepresented groups were placed at the back of auditoriums and were asked to leave the rooms when capacity levels were reached. A representative from the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus was asked to leave negotiations on carbon markets – the very issue that impacts their lands the most. Many felt they were being tokenized, given the observer status to perform dances and prayers, but unable to voice their opinions when negotiations started. 

    Not only was the presence of country delegates outnumbered by the presence of fossil fuel industry membersit was also clear that members of this industry had an agenda – and this agenda involved a lot of greenwashing. Within the exhibitions, many noticed that the European Union’s events were being run by lobbyists. Examples include events such as Global Guarantees of Origin for Clean Hydrogen” which was run by Hydrogen Europea lobbyist group with members including the likes of Shell, Total, and Equinor. And the European Union (EU) was not the only one, further events were being run by gas giants in the attempt to employ a key strategy of the fossil fuel industry. 

    Protests

    Large protests broke out over the course of the conference in response to the lack of accountability and action being taken toward the climate crisis, as well as the presence of fossil fuel lobbyistsWell-known youth activists such as Vanessa NakateDominika LasotaMitzi Tan, and Greta Thunberg released an open letter, which has received more than 1.8 million signatures, urging political leaders to step up and use their position of power to make the decisions needed to save the planet from further devastation. Just a couple days later, hundreds of protestors gathered outside a nearby shopping center to demand that companies take ownership for their contribution to rising greenhouse gas emissions and end greenwashing tactics. This protest came after the news that since 2010, a large portion of the $1.1 trillion invested in the energy sector went towards funding the fossil fuel industry. 

    A mass rally of over 10,000 people was also held by the Fridays for Future Scotland activist group on November 5th, where protestors marched throughout the city’s west end to call for immediate action from world leadersThis was one of the largest protests that took place in response to COP26, and activists from all over the world gave speeches about how climate change is affecting the places they call home, including Greta Thunberg who called the conference a failureMany students skipped school to join the protest in an effort to bring discussions about climate change out from enclosed spaces and onto the streets. 

    An even bigger protest took place the following day, which included more than 100,000 participants according to event organizersDespite the rainspirits were strong among the crowd as banners were held high and bagpipes were playedPeoples from Indigenous communities from North and South America joined the march, many of whom did not have adequate representation inside the conference, to fight against the environmental destruction caused by mining and deforestation.  

    These are a few examples of the many protests that took place in response to the events at COP26. Activists fought to make leaders aware that they are not backing down in the fight toward climate justice and they will continue to push back until promises are turned into progress. 

    How You Can Take Action

    Every one of the climate promises to come out of COP26 must be kept if we are going to have a chance at restoring the Earth. You may be thinking “how can I help Canada and the world stay on track to meeting these promises?” Here are some ways you can take action in the fight for climate justice: 

    Follow “on the ground” activists

    Ensuring the right voices are being heard is paramount to winning the race against climate change. Supporting activists that are doing the work through following and spotlighting their actions is something we can all do. Our Instagram post has highlighted various pages and activists who deserve attention and support. 

    Get active where you can

    Throughout history, social groups have created transformational change. Protests have played a vital role in laying the groundwork for systematic change. If you haven’t already, reach out to organizations in your area that host these rallies and find out how you can get involved 

    Sign petitions

    Signing petitions can be an effective way to raise awareness on climate issues and communicate public opinion to leaders and decisionmakers. Join millions of others in signing the emergency appeal for climate action! 

    Remind your leaders

    One of the most impactful ways of reminding the Canadian government about their climate and social promises is through your local MP – so take a minute out of your day and let them know about the issues you believe deserve greater attention. If emailing your MP seems a bit dauntingWWF has created an easy template to help you craft and send an email to newly elected officials. 

      

  • What Happened at COP26? The Summit in Review

    Blog Contributors: Alexandra Cotrufo and Madison Lepp

    A general view of the Action Hub is pictured during the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on November 11, 2021.(Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

    The Earth is warming at an unprecedented rate due to anthropogenic activity, causing more extreme weather events than ever before in human history. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, human emissions and activities have caused almost 100% of the warming observed since 1950. Climate change affects us all, but developing countries are being affected at a disproportionate rate and many of the most vulnerable communities are also the least responsible for the impacts of climate change.  

    Many scientists and citizens from around the world argued that COP26 was our last chance to get the climate crisis under control. COP (Conference of the Parties) is a series of United Nations climate change conferences, which have been running since 1995. The 26th COP summit took place in Glasgow, Scotland and was attended by countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This year’s summit aimed to reach a national agreement on how to tackle the current environmental, social, and economic issues brought on by climate change.  

    The summit took place from October 31st – November 12th, 2021 and involved discussions and presentations from world leaders. COP26 goals included improved mitigation, adaptation, finances, and collaboration. In addition, the COP26 Green Zone was open to the public which hosted in-person and virtual events including art installations, film screenings, interactive discussions, and more. 

    Let’s look at some of the main changes and commitments that came out of the two-week-long conference. 

    Week One Round Up

    The first week of the COP26 summit brought signs of hope, but now the big promises made must be followed up with action. Indigenous activist Txai Suruí gave a powerful speech as part of the opening ceremony. Speaking on her experiences with climate change and calling for Indigenous communities to be at the center of decisions being made at the conference. Not only are Indigenous communities disproportionately affected by climate change, but their deep-rooted traditions hold the keys to invaluable knowledge that can safeguard our earth. 

    A World Leader’s Summit was held on Monday, November 1st and Tuesday, November 2nd. The following days focused on themes including Finance, Energy, Youth & Public empowerment, and Nature, with new initiatives being announced for each of these themes.  

    During the two-day World Leaders Summit, leaders gathered to kick start a decade of accelerated climate action. Notably, over 40 major coal-using countries, including Poland, South Korea, Ukraine, Indonesia, Vietnam, and – yes – Canada, joined the Breakthrough Agenda, agreeing to phase out their use of coal for electricity generation. Another big promise was made with over 100 leaders including Brazil, China, and Indonesia – representing over 85% of the world’s forests  endorsing the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests & Land Use to reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030. This deal has been criticized for mirroring the 2014 New York “declaration on forests to end deforestation by 2030” which has failed thus far to even halve tree clearance.  

    Genuine hope came from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who announced India’s pledge to target net-zero emissions by 2070. India is the world’s fourth biggest emitter of carbon dioxide after China, the US, and the EU, but its large population means its emissions per capita are much lower. The pledge was backed with nearer-term targets to generate 50% of its energy from renewable sources and reduce the economy’s carbon intensity by 45%. Although the target misses a key goal of the COP26 summit – for countries to commit to reach that target by 2051 – the target sent signals of strong hope and is in line with what many climate experts have modelled as the most feasible scenario for India to achieve net zero. 

    Another climate promise breakthrough was made on Finance DayRishi Sunak, one of UK’s MP’s, announced new rules to make it mandatory for big UK firms to show plans on how they will achieve their climate targets. Announcements on energy day held more hope as 25+ countries and finance institutions – including the US, Canada, and the European Investment Bank – signed a commitment to end fossil fuel investments and redirect them to clean technologies.  

    Week Two Round Up

    The second week at COP26 focused on themes including Adaptation, Loss and Damage, Gender, Science and Innovation, and Transportation. There were more financial promises made for developing countries as government leaders pushed for compensation for damage caused by climate change. According to the World Economic Forum, the African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change called for $1.3 trillion of financial assistance per year from wealthy nations starting in 2025. In addition, the European Investment Bank and Allianz Global Investors made a promise on November 7th to raise 500 million euro for climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.  

    An impactful presentation from the second week involved the Tuvalu foreign Minister Simon Kofe standing knee-deep in sea water while giving a speech about how his island nation is at the forefront of climate change as sea levels continue to rise. Images of Minister Kofe were circulated widely on social media as they presented a visual representation of the harsh realities many small communities are faced with. This powerful moment demonstrated how immediate action is needed to protect our most vulnerable populations. 

    On November 10th, China and the United States – the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases – reached a joint commitment to make more of an effort to reduce emissions. This “Glasgow Declaration” was praised by many leaders at the conference, however, others felt it was simply not enough due to the lack of measurable targets set by both countries. That same day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a promise to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from some international shipping routes. In addition, Canada’s Transport Minister signed a pledge to make heavy trucks and buses emission-free over the next two decades. 

    In the final days of the summit, one theme was clear: fear of failure. Will delegates and leaders be able to keep the promises and the pledges they made over the last two weeks necessary to cut CO2 emissions? These questions remain unanswered, as a final agreement has not been reached by all countries on what next steps will be taken to avert further global warming.  

    Many activists have also been questioning the events, or lack thereof, that took place over the last two weeks. According to the Guardian, campaigners and civil society groups staged a walkout on the 12th day of the conference condemning legitimacy and lack of ambition. They created a People’s Declaration which outlines 10 demands of global northern countries to pay their climate debts for loss and damage. 

    Things to Keep in Mind

    Despite the conference’s efforts, space at the event was very limited. This required most delegates and journalists to watch COP26 from livestreams. Young activists from vulnerable countries have also noted that they were ignored by leaders and media coverage made a poor effort to voice their stories. Organized protests broke out through the weeks of the conference in the streets of Glasgow, calling on leaders to listen.  

    It’s also worth mentioning that there were more delegates at COP26 associated with the fossil fuel industry than from any single country. An analysis found that 503 delegates (of the 40,000) with links to fossil fuel interests had been accredited for the climate summit. If nations across the globe are serious about making change, fossil fuel lobbyists should not be welcome at COP summits. While COP26 was an important moment in our path toward tackling the climate crisis, the summit itself was likely to have emitted the equivalent of 102,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is double the amount emitted from the last climate summit. For reference, Canada has an annual average per capita footprint of 15.6 tons of carbon dioxide. This is a startling statistic that showcases how efforts to solve sustainability issues may actually be contributing to them. We hope more consideration is taken during the next summit to substantially reduce this number. 

    Concluding Thoughts

    COP26 has brought forward many ambitious agreements that will pave the way for much-needed climate action. Nonetheless, these agreements are only promises and past events have shown us that agreements are not always met. While the long-term promises made at COP26 are consistent with limiting warming below 2°C by 2100, the lack of near-term commitments is concerning. Unfortunately, long-term net-zero promises by countries are less likely to be met without tangible near-term commitments. And even if net-zero promises are met, we are still falling short of the Paris Agreement goal to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C. So far, the outcome of COP26 has proven to be disappointing with lots of talk and limited action. World leaders need to follow through with these agendas during this pivotal time in history. It’s time to put words into action.  

     

  • A Closer Look at Brock’s Soon-to-be Certified Green Building

    Blog Contributor: Elenore Breslow

    Did you know that the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts Building (MWS) will soon be targeting LEED® certification for existing buildings?  

    Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, commonly known as “LEED ®” is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Not only is LEED® available for new construction projects, but it is also used for existing buildings – like MWS. This type of certification is known as LEED® for Operations & Maintenance (O+M) – Existing Buildings.  Located in the heart of St. Catharines, there are many features that make MWS so unique and the ideal building to be certified under LEED® O+M. 

    According to LEED®, it can take up to 80 years to make up for the impacts of demolishing an existing building and constructing a new one, even if the resulting building is extremely energy efficient. This is one of the many reasons why the collaboration between Brock University and the City of St. Catharines to revitalize this space, was such an important factor in making MWS eligible for certification.   

    The building was initially constructed in 1888, as the Canadian Hair Cloth Factory that served as a textile factory for over 150 years. In 2008, famed textile artist Marilyn I. Walker donated an unprecedent $15 million to Brock University to help transform and revitalize the space. The heritage building was then preserved and rehabilitated, in addition to constructing the new Studio Theatre and Gallery. 

     

    Marilyn I. Walker building.

    Demonstrates the revitalized Marilyn I. Walker building.

    Heritage entrance at Marilyn I. Walker Building. Person walking in front of building.

    Heritage entrance at Marilyn I. Walker building.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The former Director of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, Derek J.J. Knight noted that the building is “a blend of heritage features and new, state-of-the-art learning facilities provide inspiring spaces for students of music, dramatic and visual arts.”  

    This adaptive-reuse project fits the standard for LEED® O+M in many ways including: Energy use, water consumption, waste reduction, occupant satisfaction, and more. One of the main goals through certification is to maximize operational efficiency while minimizing environmental impacts; and LEED® provides the tools to help navigate this process.  

    Not only will this certification showcase the existing sustainability features at MWS, but it will also highlight areas for continuous improvement to become more resource-efficient, healthy and resilient. This helps provide optimal conditions for students, staff, and faculty, for health, comfort and productivity. 

    LEED® O+M is not a one-time certification, as Brock must resubmit data annually and recertify every three years. Brock is targeting LEED® O+M certification by early 2022! The Marilyn I. Walker LEED® certification will be the 3rd building at Brock to become certified, along with the Plaza Building and International Centre.  

    Keep a look out on Sustainability at Brock for all updates. 

  • The Best Green Study Spaces at Brock

    Blog Contributor: Alexandra Cotrufo

    Photo of Pond Inlet at Brock University.

    Photo of Pond Inlet at Brock University.

    Whether your classes are online or in-person this semester, you’re bound to end up on campus at one point or another to get some studying done. Brock University has many study spaces available to students including bookable rooms, quiet and silent areas, group spaces, and more.  

    But what are the best campus study spaces for when you’re looking to get some fresh air and surround yourself with nature? Keep reading to find out!

    Canadians spend over 90% of their time indoors, an alarming statistic that shows how unconnected with nature we are. Studying outside is a perfect way to strengthen your information retention and connection with the environment. 

    There are many benefits to studying outside or in a scenic and naturally lit area. According to an article from Harvard Health Publishingif you’re having trouble concentrating, spending time in a greenspace may help you refocus.  

    Lighting can also affect the productivity of your studying. Lighting plays an important role in your brain’s ability to focus, and poor lighting can reduce your ability to retain information. Studies show that working in natural light increases productivity and reduces stress. 

    Here are our top picks for the best green study spaces at Brock:

    1. Pond Inlet

    Photo of Pond Inlet at Brock University.

    Photo of Pond Inlet at Brock University.

    Wherever you choose to setup your study space at this location, you’ll have a beautiful view of the waterfall and fish-filled pond. The rushing sound of the water is also very relaxing and calming which is sure to make your study experience an enjoyable one. The pond is also a great space to visit when you need a break from studying to clear your mind and spend a little time outdoors! 

     

    2. Mac Chown C Block Hallway

    Photo of study space located in Mac Chown C Block hallway at Brock University.

    Photo of study space located in Mac Chown C Block hallway at Brock University.

    If you’d prefer using a chair and desk to admire the pond, check out the study space located in the Mac Chown C Block hallway. The big windows looking out onto Pond Inlet provide lots of natural light and is a great option for the cooler months when studying outdoors may not be possible. 

     

    3. Mac Chown A Block Hallway

    Photo of study space located in Mac Chown A Block hallway at Brock University.

    Photo of study space located in Mac Chown A Block hallway at Brock University.

    Another indoor space on campus with lots of natural light can be found in the Mac Chown A Block hallway. The huge floor to ceiling windows makes the hallway the perfect sunny spot to sit and stare out at the greenspace below. If it gets too bright for you, use the blinds to adjust the lighting to your preference! 

     

    4. Jubilee Court

    Photo of Jubilee Court at Brock University.

    Photo of Jubilee Court at Brock University.

    Jubilee court is one of our favourite outdoor study spaces on campus! There are lots of picnic tables and benches in the court which are surrounded by lush trees. The leaves are even more beautiful around this time of year and the crisp air refreshes your mind to help increase concentration. 

     

    5. Walker/Scotiabank Courtyard

    Photo of the Walker/Scotiabank courtyard at Brock University. Photo credits belong to Brock GSA.

    Photo of the Walker/Scotiabank courtyard at Brock University. Photo credits belong to Brock GSA.

    The final outdoor study space is the Walker/Scotiabank Courtyard. Pick a table under a big yellow umbrella to protect you from the sun and enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature while you study. 

    What are your favourite study spaces at Brock? Let us know over on our Instagram @busustainable!