Blog Posts

  • What’s in Season: Supporting Niagara Farmers 

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Ruzgys

    Niagara has a very unique combination of deep, nutrient rich, sandy soils as well as an extremely favorable microclimate, which makes it perfect for growing grapes and other tender fruits such as peaches (Niagara’s Agriculture Profile). Did you know that Niagara is known as the fruit basket of Canada, with 2/3rd of Ontario’s tender fruit orchards being in Niagara, therefore producing most of the province’s peaches, cherries, pears, plums, prunes, and grapes (Niagara’s Agriculture Profile)? In Niagara, we are immensely lucky to be surrounded by such a wide variety of locally grown food and it is the time of year where everything is coming into season! Supporting your local farmers is not only great for reducing the environmental impact of your diet, it also helps support your local economy and foster a sense of community.   

    Source: Niagara-on-the-Lake Fruit Festivals, Vintage Hotels 

    Below is a comprehensive list of food that is in season in Ontario this spring/summer (What’s in Season, Ontario Farm Fresh). Lastly, a reminder that freezing and preserving local fruits and vegetable when they are in season is a great way to eat healthy, local food year-round! 

    May 

    Rhubarb (May-July) 

    Asparagus (May-June) 

    June 

    Strawberries (June-July) 

    Peas (June-September) 

    Lettuce (June-September, grown locally in greenhouses year-round) 

    Cherries (June-July) 

    Beets (June-September) 

    Beans (June-September) 

    July 

    Peaches (July-August) 

    Nectarines (July-August) 

    Garlic (Harvested in July, available through November-December) 

    Sweet Corn (July-August) 

    Tomatoes (July-September) 

    Raspberries (July-September)  

    Potatoes (Harvested in July/August, available through November-December) 

    Plums (July-September) 

    Blueberries (July-September) 

    Cucumber (July-September) 

    Peppers (July-September) 

    Onions (July-September) 

    Cabbage (July-September) 

    Cauliflower (July-September) 

    Carrots (July-September)  

    August 

    Pears (August-September) 

    Grapes (August-October, however ice wine grapes are harvested in January) 

    Eggplant (August-October) 

    Apples (August-November)  

    September 

    Squash (September-November) 

    Pumpkin (September-November)  

    Source:
    What’s in Season, Ontario Farm Fresh https://ontariofarmfresh.com/consumers/whats-in-season/ 
  • Reducing Food Waste 101 

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Ruzgys

    Agriculture is one the most environmentally impactful industries in the world, from growing and production  to distribution and eventually waste. Over 1/3 of all of the food produced in the world is wasted (Food Loss and Food Waste, 2011), which is annually valued at $1 trillion dollars. All of the world’s hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, the UK, and Europe.  

    Over 25% of the worlds fresh water supply is used to grow food that is never eaten (Hall et al., 2009). If food waste were a country, it would be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the US. And most shockingly, in most developed countries over half of food waste happens at home, on the individual level. Therefore, reducing the amount of food that is wasted at home is one of the most impactful individual actions that we can take to reduce our carbon footprint and lead a more eco-conscious life. The following tips can help you reduce food waste in your own life:

    Store Food Correctly 

    The way you store food can impact the shelf life of the food and improper storage can lead to premature ripening and increased rotting. Here are some tips for proper food storage: 

    • Items that should not be refrigerated:  
    • Potatoes  
    • Tomatoes 
    • Garlic 
    • Cucumber 
    • Onions  
    • Ethylene gas promotes ripening in foods and can lead to early spoilage. The following foods release ethylene while ripening: 
    • Bananas 
    • Avocados 
    • Tomatoes  
    • Cantaloupes 
    • Peaches 
    • Pears 
    • Green Onions  
    • Some foods are more sensitive to ethylene than others. The following foods should never be stored with foods that release ethylene: 
    • Potatoes 
    • Apples 
    • Leafy green 
    • Berries 
    • Peppers  
    Understanding Expiration Dates  

    Food expiration dates are confusing and can lead to consumers throwing away food long before it is actually expired. So, what do they mean? 

    • “Sell by” is used to tell the retailers when the product should be sold by or removed from the shelves.  
    • “Best by” is the suggested date that consumers should use the product by (note that this date does not mean that the food is unsafe to eat or expired.  
    • “Use by” mean that the food may not be at its best quality past the date and is usually the best date to follow. 

    There is currently work being done to make expiration dates clearer to consumers, however, until then it is best to use your judgement and understand what different labelling terms mean! 

    De-clutter Your Fridge  

    An overly full or unorganized fridge can lead to food getting lost or forgotten and therefore wasted. Keeping your fridge organized helps you keep track of the food you have and can help you reduce your food waste. A great way to keep your fridge organized is by following the first in first out method. When you buy new food store it behind the food already in your fridge, which helps ensure that you eat the older food first.  

    Eat Leftovers 

    Leftovers can easily get lost and be forgotten in the back of the fridge, here are some tips for avoiding leftover waste: 

    • Store leftovers in clear rather than opaque containers so you can see what is in them. 
    • Plan out your meals and factor in leftovers to meal planning.  
    Don’t Overbuy 

    Buying more than you need can be a large contributor to food waste, with research showing that buying in bulk leads to more food waste. You can avoid overbuying food by making more frequent trips to the grocery store, especially for buying fresh produce. In addition, you can ask yourself, “have I used the food I bought from my last trip?” before you buy more. You can also try making lists before grocery shopping and sticking to it as this will help reduce impulse buys.  

    Buy Imperfect Produce 

    Many fruits and vegetables are thrown away simply because of their shape, size, or colour despite the fact that they are perfectly fine to eat. Choosing to buy these “imperfect” items at the grocery store can help stop these items from being wasted and thrown in the landfill.   

    Compost 

    As much as 50% of the garbage placed on the curb in Niagara is actually organic waste (i.e., food waste) and should be composted instead (Niagara Region – Public Works Committee, 2020). When organic material is thrown in the garbage instead of a compost bin, it ends up in a landfill. Organic material needs oxygen to break down and when it sits in a landfill, it cannot breakdown into the soil. Instead, organics sit in the landfill releasing methane gas which is a greenhouse gas that has roughly 28x the global warming potential of carbon (Methane, explained, 2019). Composting is so important because when you put your organics in a green bin, it is sent to a composting facility and is turned into valuable compost in only eight weeks! 

    References

    http://www.fao.org/3/mb060e/mb060e00.htm 

    https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0007940 

    https://pub-niagararegion.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=8580 

    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/methane 

  • Mental Health Week – Lawn Care 101 Recap

    Blog Contributor: Elenore Breslow

    Mental Health Week is a Canadian tradition with communities, schools and workplaces rallying to celebrate, protect and promote mental health. Brock University organized several virtual events from May 3 – 7, 2021 to promote activities and techniques to add to their well-being toolkit.  

    Spending time outdoors is a great way to take care of our bodies and our minds. One of the best and simple ways to connect with nature is to care for it. On May 6, John Dick (Manager, Grounds Services) provided a wonderful webinar on lawn care techniques to keep your lawn healthy and green(ish). He shared insights on how to change our attitude to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly when caring for our lawns.  

    “Your lawn is the largest part of your ecosystem. Looking at it with diversity in mind is best for the environment by utilizing sustainable practices,” said John Dick.  

    Things to Remember for Eco-Friendly Lawn Care 

    • Plant for diversity to help maintain a healthier environment. A biodiverse lawn offers built-in pest control and promotes beneficial insects and birds that take care of pests.  
    • Promote bee and insect friendly environment. Leave some of the weeds alone, like the dandelions. This bee-friendly weed will bring in pollinators and help your flowers grow beautifully.  
    • Less is sometimes more. Your lawn may do better than you think by reducing fertilizer, pesticides, water, and labor. It will also be more cost-effective to maintain!  
    Walker Complex with several dandelions.
    Welch Hall with many yellow flowers blooming. It is important to remember that weeds help flowers grow – the dandelions at the Walker Complex supported the growth of the yellow flowers at Welch Hall.

    Lawn Care Techniques   

    1) Seeding 

    Seeding is an extremely important part of the lawn care process and knowing what type of seed to plant will help reduce the need for more resources to maintain your space. Canada No. 1 Lawn Mixture is a great grass seed for growing a new lawn or repairing an existing one. This is a general mix that has Kentucky Bluegrass, Red Fescue, and Perennial Ryegrass. With the various growing conditions on your lawn this mix will help your grass grow well in sunny and shaded, and drought-tolerant areas.  

    Cool Fact: Brock uses 2-3 different cultivars of Perennial Ryegrass across campus!  

    2) Fertilizing 

    Fertilizing is another essential part to help care for your lawn to encourage it to grow green and healthy. You should put fertilizer down at times that most benefit the turf and not the weeds – so timing is key. If you are going to fertilize only once a year the best time to do so is late fall. This is when the air temperature has dropped but the soil temperature is still warm. When you add fertilizer later in the year, the plant absorbs it in its roots, and it helps grow healthy grass the following spring.  

    Fertilizer is made-up of three key nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Grass requires a higher concentration of nitrogen compared to a vegetable garden, so make sure to check the concentration before you buy fertilizer! 

    Did you know: Grounds Services limits the use of phosphorous when fertilizing to decrease run-off into our water system.  

    3) Mowing 

    The longer the better. Grass needs enough leaf area to photosynthesize and grow well, and longer grass helps reduce unwanted weeds. If your grass is kept 3 inches or more, it will help keep it in a healthier state in the long-run and will require less water and fertilizer to maintain. Remember to keep the clippings on your lawn – they have lots of nutrients in them to help your grass continue to grow. 

    Mowing every other week instead of every week can help increase bee populations in and around your lawn. 

    4) Watering 

    Watering is another important aspect of taking care of a healthy lawn. Most lawns only need 1 inch of water per week, so be sure not to overwater. You can purchase a rain gauge or even use a tuna can, to track how much water your lawn receives. As a rule of thumb, once the tuna can is filled your lawn had enough water for the week.  

    To conserve water during the hot summer months in July and August, opt for not watering your lawn and allow your grass to go dormant as it would naturally. Your grass will grow back after the dry season, and you will have saved lots of water!  

    5) Aerating  

    Aerating is a great practice for compacted areas of your lawn. If you notice people tend to walk in certain parts of your lawn compared to others, you should consider aerating that area. One of the simplest ways is to use a garden fork and breakup the soil, which allows the soil to loosen up. This will help the roots grow deeply and produce strong, healthy grass.  

    6) Weeds 

    Many weeds like dandelions, white clovers, and violets are beneficial for the bees, insects, and butterflies – so please leave some of your weeds alone. And remember when caring for your lawn that a weed is just a plant in the wrong place. However, there are some weeds like the Creeping Charlie that may choke out lawns and other plants. If you choose to remove perennial weeds, it is important to get the entire root out – if not it could triple when it grows back. 

    There are lots of edible weeds that have many health benefits, like narrow and broadleaf plantains. If you remove some of your weeds, check online to see if what parts of it are edible.  

    A big thank you to John Dick who shared all this valuable information about sustainable lawn care. We should all try to look at lawns in a different way than we have in the past and appreciate the weeds and the imperfect aspects of our outdoor environment. 

    Check out our Sustainability at Brock webpage, if you want to learn more about how John Dick and his team work hard to keep our campus grounds beautiful while being sustainable as possible.   

  • Tips for a Sustainable Summer

    Blog Contributor: Mikellena Nettos

    Summer is finally just around the corner – longer days, shorter nights, and colder drinks! As you enjoy your time off, we wanted to share some helpful tips on how to have a more sustainable summer: 

    1. Take advantage of natural light – turn the lights off during the day and open the curtains! 
    2. Whenever possible, turn off the AC and open the windows to get some fresh air. 
    3. Challenge yourself to grow your own food! There are many online guides to assist in this rewarding practice. 
    4. Go to your local farmers market for produce instead of larger chain grocery stores (**Make sure to check your local COVID-19 guidelines**) 
    5. If you need to go somewhere, opt for walking or riding your bike instead of driving and take advantage of the nice weather – don’t forget your mask! 
    6. Instead of using a dryer – line dry your clothes in the sun. 
    7. When using sunscreen, opt for non-toxic sunscreen – better for your skin and the planet! 
    8. Make sure to use a reusable bottle when staying hydrated. 
    9. Want to grill your food? Opt for a propane gas grill, which burns cleaner than charcoal.  
    10. Plant a tree on your property – future summers will be a lot cooler with the nice shade it will provide!  

    Make sure to check and follow your local COVID-19 guidelines while enjoying the weather this summer. If you adopt some of these sustainable practices, make sure to tell your friends and family as it could influence them to have a more sustainable summer as well.  

    Have a safe, fun, and sustainable summer, Badgers!  

    References  
    1. (2011, July). 21 Simple Eco-Friendly Summer Tips. Biofriendly Planet | For a Cooler Environment.https://biofriendlyplanet.com/green-ideas/eco-friendly/21-simple-eco-friendly-summer-tips/
    2. GME Marketing. (2018, May). Top 10 Tips for a Sustainable Summer. Green Mountain Energy Company. https://www.greenmountainenergy.com/2013/06/top-10-tips-for-a-sustainable-summer/ 
  • Brock Students Clean Up Their Communities During Earth Week

    Blog Contributor: Elenore Breslow

    Cleaning up trash can be a lot more fun than it sounds as it provides an opportunity to spend time outdoors and engage in conservation activities to help your local community and its natural environment. Brock University and Niagara College hosted a Virtual Spring Clean-Up event from Saturday, April 17 to Sunday, April 25, 2021. Students and employees from both institutions came together (virtually) to clean up their communities and help make a positive impact.  

    Brock students and employees took part in the event from across the world from New Delhi, India to our backyard in the Niagara Region. We wanted to share some of the highlights of the event with you, so we asked participants to share their experiences.  

    Highlights from the Event  

    “The Virtual Niagara Spring Clean-Up gave me the opportunity to incorporate a more sustainable form of living into my daily schedule. I had a great time cleaning my local community park with my brother, knowing in our hearts we were making a positive environmental impact. Highly recommend it to brighten up your day.” said Shivangi Singh, a student in the Masters of Business Administration program.  

    Shivangi Singh cleaning up a local community park in New Delhi, India.

    Madeline Mantler, a Medical Sciences student, not only participated in the event but also included and taught their younger siblings, “I really enjoyed leading my household in a clean-up of Firemen’s Park in Niagara Falls for Earth Week at Brock. I found it especially rewarding getting to teach my younger siblings about sustainability during the event. I recommend others do a clean-up as well!”

    Madeline Mantler cleaning up Firemen’s Park in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

    Elaine Aldridge-Low, who works for Brock’s Centre for Canadian Studies told us, “I chose the Virgil Nature Path for my clean up.” Elaine also expressed how they came across quite a lot of garbage during their clean-up, which encouraged them to reach out to their local government, “… I reached out to a Town Councillor with the photos, and he brought it to the Town’s Environmental Committee for review. I am hopeful the area is returned to its natural state and the businesses are required to keep the area free of their debris.” 

    This experience goes to show that clean-up events not only provide an opportunity to care for your community, but also to advocate for environmental improvements from local authorities.  

    Photo provided by Elaine Aldridge-Low that shows some of the trash found at the Virgil Nature Path located in the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

    Gargi Daga, a student in the Masters of Business Administration program, noted they had a great time at the clean-up event, “I had an amazing experience while participating in Virtual Niagara Clean Up event. I have learnt that our generation has the ability and the responsibility to make our ever-more connected world a more hopeful, stable and clean place.”  

    Gargi Daga cleaning up their local community in Ottawa, Ontario.

    Thank you to all our participants and we look forward to hosting another clean-up event in the fall. If you are looking to get involved sooner, we launched a toolkit with Niagara College that includes information and simple steps on how to host or join a community clean-up anytime, anywhere. Resources also direct participants to their local health guidelines to ensure all COVID-19 restrictions are followed throughout the process. 

    Follow Sustainability at Brock on social media to find out about other ways you can get involved in sustainability initiatives.  

  • The Sustainable Development Goals and Gender Inequality

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Ruzgys

     

    Goal number 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is focused on gender equality and empowering women and girls. However, we can see the theme of gender equality riddled throughout many of the SDGs, highlighting how important equality is for achieving the goals.

    There have been improvements in recent years, like the fact that fewer girls are forced into early marriage and more women are in leadership roles. However, despite those improvements, equality still remains unreached throughout the globe. In 2020, women still only represented 25% of national parliaments and 39% of local government roles, despite the fact that women are disproportionately on the front lines of one of the largest global crises in recent times – COVID-19. In fact, recent surveys have found that women account for 70% of all health and social workers globally, demonstrating the importance of women in fighting crises (United Nations, 2020).

    Aside from front line workers, COVID-19 has negatively impacted a large number of women, mainly by increasing vulnerability and household burdens. Lockdowns have increased the risk of violence against women and girls, with some countries reporting up to a 30% increase in cases of domestic violence.

     

    Source: UN Women

    Goal 5 focuses on aspects such as ensuring women’s political leadership, and reproductive health rights, as well as eliminating violence, trafficking, and discrimination. However, we see gender equality in a number of the goals such as No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Health and Wellbeing, Clean Water, Education, and Economic Growth.

    When looking at economic growth, factors such as pay gaps can have large impacts on gender equality and the economy. Research from 2017 revealed a 19% gender pay gap globally, which has far reaching economic impacts. Research has shown that closing this pay gap can have a multitude of benefits. On one hand, closing the gap could cut the poverty rate of working women in half. Others have estimated that equal pay would boost women’s earnings in developing countries by $2 trillion. Beyond raising wages, increasing female economic participation can have massive benefits, with estimates stating that if an equal number of men and women were in the job force, GDP could increase by 5% in the US, 9% in Japan, and 27% in India (Schulze, 2018). With COVID-19 pushing the world into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, integrating more women into the workforce and reducing pay gaps can be a vital tool in post-COVID recovery.

    Further, we can again see how interconnected the SDGs are when we look at the role education has to play in achieving these economic goals for women. In 2018, two thirds of the 773 million illiterate adults were women, with the majority of them residing in low-income countries. Young women in developing countries still face massive barriers towards education, including menstruation, social pressures to engage in family care over education, violence, child marriage and early pregnancy (Gender Inequality Is Keeping Girls Out of School, 2017). All of these barriers, and more, continue to keep girls from pursuing education.

    When looking at Goal 1 for no poverty it is obvious how many of these factors affecting women contribute to global poverty. For example, we know educating women is one of the most effective things we can do to reduce global poverty. The economic theory of fertility suggests that more educated women are better able to support themselves and have more bargaining power, including choices such as family sizes. Studies have also shown that increasing female education significantly reduces the number of children born per woman (Ali & Gurmu, 2018).

    Overall, while Gender Equality is its own goal, we can see just how essential achieving gender equality is for so many of the SDGs through research showing how beneficial reducing things such as the pay gap and increasing female education can be for the entire globe on multiple scales and with several impacts.

  • Earth Day 2021

    Blog Contributor: Mikellena Nettos

    Today, Thursday, April 22nd2021, is Earth Day. The world’s first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970 and it is now regarded as a global initiative to promote the protection and care of our planet. If you’re looking for a way to celebrate Earth Day from your own home, join us virtually at one of our events.  

    Brock will be hosting a virtual event tonight at 7pm, as part of the ESRC’s Environmental Stewardship Speaker Series where Dr. Robyn Bourgeois will be presenting “Land, Body, and Sovereignty: An Indigenous Perspective”. This is a great opportunity to learn more about how environmental destruction directly affects Indigenous women and girls and Indigenous ways of knowing.  

    In addition, Sustainability at Brock is hosting a virtual clean up, in partnership with Niagara College until April 25th. The institutions are also providing the community with a virtual clean-up toolkit that can be found here. Today, you can use this opportunity to participate in the virtual clean up and help take care of our planet. This clean up initiative can also be included as volunteer hours toward the WWF Living Planet Leader Certification!  

    Students can support Earth Day by learning more about sustainable ways of living and use this day to kick start a more sustainable lifestyle for the rest of the year. There are also additional virtual events to take part in at earthday.org 

    Make sure to check our sustainability social media pages on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook to find more resources on how to lead a more sustainable life through our highlights and posts. Have a safe and sustainable Earth Day, Badgers! 

  • Brock University and Niagara College Team up to Host a Virtual Spring Clean-Up 

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Ruzgys

    Brock University and Niagara College have joined forces to host a virtual spring cleanup from Saturday, April 17th to Sunday, April 25th, 2021. The institutions have also created a virtual cleanup toolkit in order to engage and empower the community to join along.  

    With global issues such as climate change, it is easy to feel a sense of hopelessness about the environment. Taking action by cleaning up your local community is a way to be an advocate for sustainability, while also creating a sense of hope that small actions can help target big issues. The goal of the toolkit is to empower individuals to make a difference within their communities by providing them with resources to safely host their own virtual clean-up anywhere, anytime!   

    How do I sign up for the virtual clean-up?

    Click this link to sign up via Experience BU and participate anytime between Saturday, April 17th to Sunday, April 25th 

    Why should I join or host a virtual clean-up?

    • Spending time outdoors and engaging in conservation activities can help foster a connection to local communities and ecosystems. 
    • There is a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced negative emotions including anxiety, depression, and irritability as well as headaches and indigestion (Ontario Parks, 2020) 
    • You can help better your own local community and make a difference for the environment. 
    • Become aware of the garbage that is most common in your own community and help spread awareness. 
    • Students can help fulfil volunteer hours for the WWF-Canada Living Planet Leader Certification

    What is in the virtual clean-up toolkit?

    There are currently three guides available: for students, for community members, and for organizations. Each guide provides unique resources for the respective group.  

    The Student Guide Includes:

    • Resources about how your participation in the virtual clean-up can contribute towards your Living Planet Leader Certification  
    • A list of tips to help you get started with your own virtual clean-up 
    • COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.  
    • A virtual clean-up checklist 

     If you have any questions about how to join or host a virtual clean-up, please reach out to sustainability@brocku.ca  

  • Inequalities in Niagara And How You Can Help Eliminate Them

    Blog Contributor: Margaux Turk

    The United Nations (UN’s) has developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals are important for everyone to have a better understanding of how climate change, inequalities and health issues affect everyone around the world, in a multitude of ways. Understanding all of the UN’s SDGs is important to be able to accomplish these goals, and bringing them to a local level can help make them more manageable and easier to tackle.

    There are many steps that people can take to help accomplish these goals but in this blog I will talk about economic inequality. I will be focusing on income inequality, how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people’s income as well as how income affects housing challenges, and what we can do in the Niagara region to help.

    Before COVID-19 hit; the Niagara region was already one of the toughest job markets in Canada with an average of 73 applicants per job listing. As of May 2020 over 21,500 people in Niagara1 have either lost their job or been laid-off for the time being during lockdown . Businesses are shut down or have had to change how they operate because of the restrictions put in place by the government. These restrictions aim to try to get a handle on, and prevent COVID-19 from infecting more people than it already has. This unfortunately has greatly impacted the region’s economy as well as its residents.

    The impacts of COVID-19 have been felt worldwide, it is estimated by the international Labor Organization that “nearly half of the global workforce is at risk of losing their livelihoods” 3. It is also estimated that we are likely at the verge of another global recession just as bad, if not worse, than the one that occurred in 2009. The potential damage will only increase during these unprecedented times where marginalized and poor people have been hit the hardest and have become more vulnerable and susceptible to these issues. Those who were already experiencing financial instability have had their issues exacerbated by the state of flux caused by the COVID-19 Lockdowns.

    When businesses are able to open up in the future, the lasting effects of COVID-19 could potentially lead to even less job opportunities. This means that the numbers of people experiencing poverty will continue to grow instead of shrink, unless there is something we can do to help the people experiencing hardship. COVID-19 has had a far longer and drastic impact than anyone could have predicted at the beginning stages of this pandemic. It has lasted longer and affected everyone in different ways. Even those who were not affected financially from the pandemic likely have had their mental health impacted due to the stress and isolation caused by the ongoing lockdowns and restrictions.

    In Niagara there are a plethora of things we could and should be doing to try and prevent the marginalized from suffering. One of the struggles individuals in Niagara face is the lack of affordable housing units. We have a severe lack of rental properties and are witnessing the continued increase of rental costs that are occurring across the region. One solution is to have municipalities in Niagara build houses and apartment buildings with the sole purpose of having them being affordable housing for local people and their families. Ways in which we can do this is petitioning, calling our local government to let them know this issue is not going unnoticed and we expect them to do something about it. The more attention we give to this issue the more likelihood of those in charge will pay attention and make a change.

    With more affordable housing we will also be able to address and help those who are experiencing homelessness. There are over 500 homeless people in the Niagara region, almost 150 of them being children2. If we can provide adequate housing and better the shelters already in place for them it would be the stepping stone needed to start bettering their situation. The first step of this is ensuring that the current homeless shelters in place already are welcoming to all, treating people with kindness and respect, and have the resources and knowledge necessary to connect the homeless with appropriate social services and help anyone with mental health issues, disabilities or any other issues which may be making their progress harder.

    If you yourself are a resident of Niagara or St Catherines and have walked downtown on St. Paul, chances are you have walked past many people who are suffering from homelessness. You may have talked to them, you may not have, but if you have then you may know just how human these people are. Something many people seem to forget when driving or walking past them.

    While this blog has mainly focused on one aspect of the UN’s 17 SDGs (economic inequalities and housing issues), and while reducing inequalities and ensuring no one is left behind are integral to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations, 2021), it is important to note that all SDGs are interconnected and rely on each other. In other words you cannot complete one without also working on another.

    To really eradicate the inequalities people are facing here in Niagara (and all over) we have to consider many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These include SDGS one

    (1) through ten (10) shown in the photo below. By focussing on all of these SDGs we can ensure that everyone has an equal start. And can ensure more can help the progress of sustainable development and all of the SDGs.

    If you are interested in helping be the change but are unsure of how to start, take a look at this link to help give you some ideas on where to start. For more information on the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals follow this link to gain more information on the topic. If you are wondering what your business can do to participate this is a good place to start your research on the topic, and if you’re looking for another blog type post on the topics be sure to come back to read more blogs about the topic and check out this one which is already posted!

    Please take time out of your day to view the UN’s website about the SDG’s and how YOU can change your daily life to help make life better for everyone and the planet we live on.

    Things You Can Do

    If you can, we should all carry something on our person in case you see someone who needs help, especially during the cold winter months.

    Items can include but are not limited to: winter boots, jackets, mitts and hats, a new toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, dry shampoo, feminine products, non-perishable food or easy snacks such as granola bars or fruit like oranges, bananas, apples etc.

    Donate to a local organization that brings these items right to those in need. If you don’t already, making these changes are necessary because “greater efforts are needed to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, and invest more in health, education, social protection and decent jobs especially for young people, migrants and refugees and other vulnerable communities”3.

    References

    1. Howard, G. (2020, May 08). Study shows 21,500 Niagarans have lost their jobs During COVID crisis. Retrieved January 17, 2021, from https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news/niagara-region/2020/05/08/study-shows-21-500-niagarans-have-lost-their-jobs-during-covid-crisis.html

    2. Niagara to get a count on homeless population. (2020, February 25). Retrieved February 17, 2021, from https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news/niagara-region/2020/02/25/niagara-to-get-a-count-on-homeless-population.html

    3. Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere – United Nations Sustainable Development. (2021, February 3). United Nations Sustainable Development; United Nations. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/poverty/

  • Sustainability Starts with You

    Blog Contributor: Kassie Burns

    The United Nations created 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 to address the major social, economic, and environmental issues around the world. At a global scale, these goals seem intimidating but when brought to the local level are much easier to accomplish. In the Niagara Region, municipalities and cities face several challenges due to climate change. A survey conducted by Blythe et al. (2020) revealed that 87% of respondents believe humans have the capacity to address climate change and 85% supported municipal resources being used for climate change adaptation in the Niagara Region. However, only 53% of respondents addressed climate change as a priority in their households. Thankfully, every individual has the power to make a difference to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and it can start right from their homes.

    There are several actions people can take in their lives to create sustainable change, but some may be overlooked more than others.

    Gardening

    Gardens of any size can have a strong impact on the challenges climate change creates. Whether it is acommunity garden or a backyard garden, it has potential to contribute directly to several SDGs including: sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, and support life below water as well as life on land.

    Tips:

    Benefits to Nature from Native Plants
    • Helps reduce invasive species that quickly override plant populations
    • Increases biodiversity in your neighbourhood as many organisms rely on them for survival
    • Pollinator gardens can help declining populations recover, like bees and butterflies that need frequent pollinator stops during migration

    Tips:

    • People can certify their gardens as a Wildlife-friendly Habitat through the Canadian Wildlife Federation
    • Improve wildlife in your backyard or community even more by adding feeders, bird houses, and fountains in the area
    Native Plants and Flooding

    A challenge households in the Niagara Region are currently facing is basement flooding due to overwhelmed storm water and sewage systems. In the same study by Blythe et al. (2020), they report that 15% of respondents experienced household flooding and 55% experienced community flooding across the region. Here are some interesting facts about native plants and flooding:

    • Native plants retain water better than non-native species, which reduces soil erosion and can prevent floods
    • They can help reduce burden on the Region’s water systems since there would be less runoff water into the drains
    • Native plants do not need to be watered as often and save the homeowner resources as well as unexpected costs
    • Collecting rainwater through a barrel or bucket will reduce the risk of flooding and can be used for other purposes
    Plants Reduce Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Emissions

    CO2 is one major component in greenhouse gases that is causing the planet to heat at

    an accelerated rate and is a leading factor in global warming. The Niagara Region’s Corporate Climate Chang

    e Action Plan recognizes hotter temperatures have caused an increase in vector borne diseases and damages to agriculture crops.

    Did you know?

    • Plants can help fight climate change by decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
      • Plants breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen
      • Having a garden can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
      • Never has it been more crucial to lower CO2 levels
    • Devoting a space for plants decreases the area of grass in yards, which is often maintained by gasoline mowers
      • According to the National Wildlife Federation, gasoline powered tools like lawn mowers produce 10 to 12 times more pollution than the average car in one hour of use
      • It would significantly reduce emissions if every property owner were to limit their use or consider changing to non-gasoline products to maintain their yards
    • If the space permits, planting trees can be the best way to achieve fresher air
    • The National Wildlife Federation states a mature tree can absorb 0.23 tons of carbon dioxide per year
    • If every person in the Niagara Region (as of 2016) grew a mature tree, approximately 9000 tons of carbon dioxide would be absorbed every year
    • Programs are available through municipalities to request a tree to be planted on city grounds in front of your property
    • The City of St. Catharines offers New Tree Planting services and hosts events such as tree giveaways and rain barrel sales
    Growing Food Products

    In addition to growing plants, people can grow their own food products.

    Did you know?

    • Individuals can immensely reduce their carbon footprint by growing their own food
    • It saves the environment and individuals’ finances, while providing the freshest ingredients
    • Herbs and some vegetables can be easily grown indoors for those who do not have the space or time for a whole outdoor garden
    Growth for Change Challenge

    In the light of the pandemic and many individuals stuck at home, what better time to think about ways to improve your gardens this spring or increase the number of plants in your home? Thus, I am challenging people to create and maintain a space for growth to show a literal and symbolic support to fight climate change. Whether it is a large or small garden, community garden, or flowerpots, everyone of all experiences and ages is encouraged to participate in the Growth for Change Challenge.

    The Sustainable Developmental Goals are achievable, and actions need to start with you because sustainability is everyone’s responsibility.

    #GrowthForChangeChallenge

    Note: Kassie Burns contributed this blog through ENSU 3P91, Environmental Sustainability Internship, which is a part of the Minor in Environmental Sustainability. We thank Kassie for her willingness to have this course project deliverable posted publicly.

     

    References

    Blythe J, Mallette A, Smits A, Daly E, Plummer R, 2020. Climate vulnerability fact sheet Grimsby. Niagara Adapts Program Brief: 2020-01

    Canadian Wildlife Federation. (2021). Certify your garden as a “Wildlife-friendly Habitat”. https://cwf-fcf.org/en/explore/gardening-for-wildlife/action/get-certified/

    City of St. Catharines. (2021). Trees. St. Catharines. https://www.stcatharines.ca/en/livein/Trees.asp#

    Department of Economic and Social Sustainable Development. (2021). The 17 Goals. United Nations. https://sdgs.un.org/goals

    National Wildlife Federation. (2021). Gardening for Climate Change. National Wildlife Federation. https://www.nwf.org/Our-Work/Environmental-Threats/ClimateChange/Greenhouse-Gases/Gardening-for-Climate-Change

    Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. (2014). A Guide to Celebrate Niagara Peninsula’s      Native Plants. http://ourniagarariver.ca/wp content/uploads/2016/03/14047-NPCA-Plant-GuideJan2015.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2_nOeIn5Gwn0AFQiN29OfQTILv2HjHMkcMUFLHMavuHJqd-VB7vTfQ

    Niagara Region. (2013). Corporate Climate Change Action Plan: Partners for Climate Protection: Milestones 2 and 3. http://www.niagaraknowledgeexchange.com/wp content/uploads/sites/2/2014/05/Corporate_Climate_Action_Plan_2013.pdf