Blog Posts

  • Brock Students Celebrated Earth Hour with Sustainability Challenge

    By: Madison Lepp

    On the week of March 21 to 25, Brock hosted its second Sustainability Challenge to encourage engagement in Earth Hour. Earth Hour engages millions of people in switching off their lights to show support for our planet. The day has become a catalyst for positive environmental impact – driving major legislative changes by harnessing the power of collective action. This year, 2022, was branded as The Year That Counts. Later this year, world leaders will be coming together to attend a critical United Nations conference on nature & biodiversity. Happening shortly before the CBD COP 15, Earth Hour is a crucial opportunity to put the spotlight on this conference and build the global momentum needed to pressure world leaders into action later in the year.

    The challenge, which was hosted in partnership with Blackstone Energy Services, encouraged students to log their sustainable actions over a one-week period on the Blackstone Energy app. The goal of the challenge was to engage the student community in contributing to Sustainability at Brock and highlight ways to easily integrate sustainable solutions into everyday life. Actions included turning the tap off when brushing your teeth, composting, air drying dishes, buying local, and so much more.

    “We are thrilled with the level of student participation we’ve seen in throughout the sustainability challenges we’ve held this year and are hopeful these challenges are allowing students to see how small changes they can make in their own lives can have large scale impacts. ” said Amanda Smits, Centre Administrator at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre.

    The rules were simple: log all sustainable actions you made throughout the day on the app to accumulate points. The three students who accumulated the most points by the end of the competition won a Grouphug window solar charger, a Cyboris solar-powered Bluetooth speaker, and a Hydro Flask from the Campus Store plus two Stasher reusable silicone bags.

    Winners of the challenge were happy to share the impact this initiative had on their day-to-day lives. First-place finisher Sydney Macintyre, noted how she has brought the actions taken during the challenge into her everyday life:

    “My most logged action was walk there,” she said. “I am finding myself walking to close locations everyday versus driving. This challenge has brought to light many ways in which sustainability can be incorporated into your daily itinerary!”

    Second-place finisher noted how the challenge made her really think about the bigger picture

    “This challenge made me appreciate how significant Earth Hour is,” said KC Vega. “It was a way to contribute something good and positive to help save our Earth. I would highly encourage others to take part in this challenge; as I would definitely participate again in the next one!”

    Through the app, we were able to estimate CO2 savings, waste diversion, and water savings from students logging their sustainable actions. With over 1,000 actions logged, an estimated total of 1,390 kilograms of CO2(about half the weight of an elephant) and 12,660 litres of water (about half the volume of a large U-Haul truck) were saved. Additionally, 75 kilograms of waste (about the weight of a washing machine) was diverted. The top actions included using a reusable water bottle, turning off the water when brushing your teeth, recycling, using a reusable mug, and turning off the lights when leaving a room.

    “I liked the challenge because it was a fun way to connect with other students off-campus in a challenging way!” Said third-place finisher, Victoria Stinson. “It was genuinely so much fun competing while completing sustainable actions!”

    The goal of the Sustainability Challenge was to highlight Earth Hour and how easy it is to make small, yet impactful, sustainable choices every day. Students are encouraged to continue taking eco-friendly actions to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to the health of the environment!

    Categories: Challenge/Contest, Climate Change, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • 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.

  • A snapshot into the recent IPCC impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability projections

    Blog Contributor: Alexandra Cotrufo

    Photo: DisobeyArt / Getty Images

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), The Working Group II, recently contributed to the Sixth Assessment Report which “assesses the impacts of climate change, looking at ecosystems, biodiversity, and human communities at global and regional levels. It also reviews vulnerabilities and the capacities and limits of the natural world and human societies to adapt to climate change”. This contribution is critical in helping us understand the current state of the environment and what urgent work is needed to prevent devastating impacts on people and the planet.

    In addition to a summary for policymakers, the IPCC created fact sheets which provide snapshots of key findings for the seven regions across the globe. Here is an overview of the fact sheets which showcase how the climate crisis affects different parts of the world in different ways. This blog post will only cover information in the fact sheets that focus on ecosystems, food, and water, but we encourage you to read the full fact sheets as well as the summary for policymakers to gain a thorough understanding of how climate change impacts various countries and the barriers that exist for adaptation, specifically for our most vulnerable communities.

    Africa

    • African biodiversity loss is projected to be widespread and escalating with every 0.5°C increase above present-day global warming
    • Above 1.5°C, half of assessed species are projected to lose over 30% of their population or area of suitable habitat. At 2°C, 7–18% of species assessed are at risk of extinction, and over 90% of East African coral reefs are projected to be severely degraded by bleaching.
    • In Africa, agricultural productivity growth has been reduced by 34% since 1961 due to climate change, more than any other region. Future warming will negatively affect food systems in Africa by shortening growing seasons and increasing water stress
    • Global warming above 2°C will result in yield reductions for staple crops across most of Africa compared to 2005 yields.
    • Climate change poses a significant threat to African marine and freshwater fisheries. Under 1.7°C global warming, reduced fish harvests could leave 1.2–70 million people in Africa vulnerable to iron deficiencies, up to 188 million for vitamin A deficiencies, and 285 million for vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids by mid-century.
    • Recent extreme variability in rainfall and river discharge across Africa have had largely negative and multi-sector impacts across water-dependent sectors.
    • Projected changes present heightened cross-cutting risks to water-dependent sectors and require planning under deep uncertainty for the wide range of extremes expected in future.

     Asia

    • Observed biodiversity loss of animals and plants was linked to climate change in some parts of Asia.
    • Future climate change would cause biodiversity and habitat loss in many parts of Asia and would reduce suitable habitat of protected plants.
    • The risk of irreversible loss of coral reefs, tidal marshes, seagrass meadows, plankton community and other marine and coastal ecosystems increases with global warming, especially at 2°C temperature rise or more.
    • Increased floods and droughts, together with heat stress, will have adverse impact on food availability and prices of food resulting in increased undernourishment in South and Southeast Asia.
    • By mid-21st Century, the international transboundary river basins of Amu Darya, Indus, Ganges could face severe water scarcity challenges due to climatic variability and changes acting as stress multipliers.
    • Due to global warming, Asian countries could experience increase of drought conditions (5-20%) by the end of this century.

    Australasia

    • Climate trends and extreme events have combined with exposure and vulnerabilities to cause major impacts for many natural systems, with some experiencing or at risk of irreversible change in Australia and in New Zealand.
    • The Bramble Cay melomys, an endemic mammal species, became extinct due to loss of habitat associated with sea level rise and storm surges in the Torres Strait.
    • Extensive coral bleaching events and loss of temperate kelp forests have occurred, due to ocean warming and marine heatwaves.
    • Climate trends and extreme events have combined with exposure and vulnerabilities to cause major impacts for some human systems.
    • Extreme heat has led to excess deaths and increased rates of many illnesses.
    • Droughts have caused financial and emotional stress in farm households and rural communities.
    • Nuisance and extreme coastal flooding have increased due to sea-level rise superimposed upon high tides and storm surges.

    Central and South America

    • Ocean and coastal ecosystems in the region such as coral reefs, estuaries, salt marshes, mangroves and sandy beaches are highly sensitive and negatively impacted by climate change and derivedhazards.
    • Coral reefs are projected to lose their habitat, change their distribution range and suffer more bleaching events driven by ocean warming.
    • Up to 85% of natural systems (plant and animal species, habitats and communities) evaluated in the literature for biodiversity-rich spots in the region are projected to be negatively impacted by climate change.
    • The Amazon Forest, one of the world’s largest biodiversity and carbon repositories, is highly vulnerable to drought and was highly impacted by the unprecedented droughts and higher temperatures observed in 1998, 2005, 2010 and 2015/2016, attributed partly to climate change.
    • The combined effect of anthropogenic land use change and climate change increases the vulnerabilities of terrestrial ecosystems to extreme climate events and fires.
    • Glacier retreat, temperature increase and precipitation variability, together with land-use change, have affected ecosystems, water resources, and livelihoods through landslides and flood disasters.
    • Increasing water scarcity and competition over water are projected.
    • Disruption in water flows will significantly degrade ecosystems such as high-elevation wetlands and affect farming communities, public health and energy production.
    • Extremely long dry spells have become more frequent affecting the economies of large cities in southeast Brazil.
    • Impacts on rural livelihoods and food security, particularly for small and medium-sized farmers and Indigenous Peoples in the mountains, are projected to worsen, including the overall reduction of agricultural production, suitable farming area and water availability. 

    Europe

    • Our current 1.1°C warmer world is already affecting natural and human systems in Europe.
    • Impacts of compound heatwaves and droughts have become more frequent and largely negative impacts are projected for southern regions.
    • Substantive agricultural production losses are projected for most European areas over the 21st century, which will not be offset by gains in Northern Europe.
    • While irrigation is an effective adaptation option for agriculture, the ability to adapt using irrigation will be increasingly limited by water availability, especially in response to warming above 3°C.
    • In Southern Europe, more than a third of the population will be exposed to water scarcity at 2°C warming and significant economic losses in water and energy dependent sectors may arise.
    • Coastal flood damage is projected to increase at least 10-fold by the end of the 21st century, and even more or earlier with current adaptation and mitigation.
    • Sea level rise represents an existential threat for coastal communities and their cultural heritage, particularly beyond.

    North America

    • Rising air, water, ocean, and ground temperatures have restructured ecosystems and contributed to documented redistribution and mortality of plant, fish, bird, mammal and other faunal species.
    • Escalating climate change impacts on marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems will alter ecological processes and amplify other anthropogenic threats to protected and iconic species and habitats.
    • Climate-induced redistribution and declines in North American food production are a risk to food and nutritional security.
    • Climate change will continue to shift North American agricultural and fishery suitability ranges and intensify production losses of key crops, livestock, fisheries, and aquaculture products.
    • Heavy exploitation of limited water supplies, especially in the western US and northern Mexico, and deteriorating freshwater management infrastructure, have heightened water security impacts and risks.
    • Intensified droughts and earlier runoff from diminished snowpack will increase water scarcity during the summer peak water demand period especially in regions with extensive irrigated agriculture, leading to economic losses and increased pressures on limited groundwater as a substitute for diminished surface water supplies.

    Small Islands

    • The continued degradation of terrestrial and marine ecosystems of small islands due to negative human impacts will amplify the vulnerability of island peoples to climate change impacts.
    • New studies highlight large population reductions with an extinction risk of 100% for endemic species within insular biodiversity hotspots including within the Caribbean, Pacific and Sundaland regions by 2100 for less than 3°C warming.
    • Ecosystem degradation is likely to decrease the provision of resources to the millions of people inhabiting small islands, resulting in impacts upon settlements and infrastructure, food and water security, health, economies, culture, and migration.
    • It is estimated that with a warming of 1.5°C or less, freshwater stress on small islands would be 25% less as compared to 2.0°C.
    • Drought risk projections for Caribbean Small Island Development States (SIDS) indicate that a 1°C increase in temperature could result in a 60% increase in the number of people projected to experience severe water resources stress from 2043–2071.
    • On small islands, coastal land loss attributable to higher sea level, increased extreme precipitation and wave impacts, and increased aridity have contributed to food and water insecurities that are likely to become more acute in many places.

    It is evident that globally, climate change has severe impacts on the health of our ecosystems and the natural resources needed to sustain all life. Policymakers, organizations, government bodies, and every individual must take urgent action to adapt, mitigate risks, and reduce the rate that climate change is occurring.

    We know this information may be overwhelming, but it is necessary to fully understand the current state of the environment so we can work toward finding sustainable solutions. If you’re struggling to deal with the reality of climate change, read our blog post about eco-anxiety and how to manage it here.

    Categories: Climate Change, Student Contributor

  • 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! 

     

     

     

  • Facilities Management is Taking Action through a Holiday Sustainability Challenge

    Blog Contributor: Elenore Breslow

    Every day we make choices in our lives that impact the environment around us – from the food we eat to the car we drive. Leading a sustainable lifestyle is an important first step in taking climate action, and perhaps can become a precursor of wider change to help incentivise climate action on a larger scale 

    Staff members in Facilities Management (FM) are setting the tone across the University by taking part in their first Holiday Sustainability Challenge. Blackstone Energy Services and Brock partnered together to provide an innovative and interactive sustainability app to encourage adoption of more sustainable habits through friendly competition. This past fall a student-focused challenge was hosted but now staff are getting in on the fun too! 

    “We’re so proud of the efforts and overall participation from the FM team in the challenge, said Drew Cullen, Manager, District Energy. “Not only was the competition a great way to inspire everyone to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, but it was also a fun team bonding exercise.” 

    Facilities Management Holiday Sustainability Challenge Winners – The Carbon Crushers. (left to right) Scott Johnstone (Senior Associate VP, Infrastructure & Operations), Mary Quintana (Director, Asset Management & Utilities), Mandeep Mukkar-Ippolito (Facilities Manager, MIWSFPA & Satellite Sites), Dave McArthur (Director, Facilities & Services), John Clutterbuck (Manager, CFHBRC).

    The weeklong challenge started on December 6 and ended on December 10, 2021. Six teams took part, which included team fun names like “Carbon Crushers”, “Captain Planet and the Paperless Posse”, and “Eco Warriors”. FM did not take the challenge lightly; and there may have been some sore losers. In the end the Carbon Crushers took first prize and won sustainable gift baskets from the Campus Store. Even though the competition was all in good fun, it does sound like the other teams are already looking for a rematch. 

    Impact Totals from the Challenge:  

    Over 3.6 tons of CO2 saved 

    270 kilograms of waste diverted 

    5300 gallons of water saved  

    Participants logged their actions in the Blackstone Energy App. Popular actions that earned points included: taking a shorter shower, having a vegetarian meal, carpooling, and visiting a park. The challenge encouraged FM to make more sustainable choices in their everyday lives and share the reasoning behind these behavioral changes with those around them.  

    “The holiday sustainability challenge was a fun experience and it also highlighted that many of us in FM already live sustainable lives, but there is always room for improvement,” said Dave Mcarthur, Director, Facilities & Services.  

    “It also illustrated that adopting sustainable habits doesn’t necessarily cost more, it just can require a little discipline,” he said. 

    Moving forward, there are plans to host more sustainability challenges for staff and faculty, as well as students. Individual action matters and when we choose to take public transit instead of driving, purchase local produce, or switch to LEDs, we have an impact. The goal of these challenges is to showcase how everyone can make their lives more sustainable, and hopefully continue the actions after the contest is over. 

    Categories: Sustainability

  • 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.