By Daniel Rotman
Daniel is a co-facilitator of Master Recycler Vancouver.
I'm a strong believer in the idea that sustainability requires us (all of us) to reach beyond our circles and networks and biases to empower change. It won't be easy and it won't look like we think it will.
Take ZooShare for example. This new project takes local animal and food waste to feed an anaerobic digester that then produces energy and fertilizer for the local community, closing the loop on those resources. The bio-gas cooperative is working closely with Miller Waste, the Toronto Zoo, the local community, the local government and its 600 members/funders to make this happen.
Check out Lodge Farm in north Wales, another great example of how animal and food waste are being used locally from a corporate player.
Collaboration also helps us make others do and feel good! Those of us with the passion and energy can't do it all, so we can simply help others achieve what we all want, a sustainable future. It's not about being a hero, it's about cultivating heroes all around us.
DHL definitely puts the above into practice. How can a shipping company go net zero? They are empowering their employees by training them to help their customers ship more efficiently and through using zero emission, or carbon neutral delivery options. Have you seen their delivery bicycles? DHL is also developing their own in-house electric vehicle technology, and has been a sponsor of the Formula E racing series since it started in 2014.
Those of us who are doing everything in our power to move towards a greener, cleaner future, you are definitely not alone, and that's a message we all need to share.
By Amrita Pooni
Amrita is a student entering her final year of university. She is majoring in a B.A. of International Relations at the University of British Columbia. She is currently interning with the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC) as the facilitator of the annual Westside Community Food Market (a partnership with Kitsilano Neighbourhood House).
Personally, to know the exact person who has harvested the veggies I put into my meals or the snacks that I ate during lunch has provided me with a new perspective on what I am eating. It was amazing hearing people’s stories of how they got started with the market. When I listened to the conviction behind people’s personal stories, it showed me the passion people have for the work they do and that was reflected in the products they made. Renee from True Nosh, coming from a family with a history of diabetes, decided to make a company that helps balance your blood sugars and prevent ups and downs. Roger from Farmhouse Bard discussing the power of food in helping people grow and bringing people together. Sheila from Zero Waste Christmas who as a child of Depression-era parents always saved and reused wrapping paper from gifts, but decided to take it further last year by sewing gift bags for all the little gifts. It was thought provoking and I found myself questioning every purchase that I made and where I chose to spend my money in my everyday life. It lead me to make certain lifestyle changes such as supporting my local coffee shop instead of a chain coffee shop. Learning theoretical concepts in class is one thing, but having the opportunity to actually take action and see ideas come to fruition, has been life changing.
Did you know that the BC Motor Vehicle Act here is 60 years old? The way the roads are being used has changed, and so should the rules that govern them. Please take action today. Check out what our friends at the HUB are proposing, lets make our voices heard, and ask our government to take action. Let's be part of the solution and not the problem.
If you are interested in this topic and want to volunteer and meet like-minded people join us at our next SPEC Energy & Transportation Committee meeting on Wednesday August 16 at 6:00PM, at 2305 West 7th Ave. Or email us at email@example.com to learn more about volunteering with SPEC.
The SPEC Energy & Transportation Committee
The City of Vancouver, Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health combine to host discussion on catalyzing social connections
In 2012, the Vancouver Foundation presented the results of a survey of metro Vancouver revealing that people in the region identified their greatest concern as a growing sense of isolation. You can read the entire study at: https://www.vancouverfoundation.ca//sites/default/files/documents/VanFdn-SurveyResults-Report.pdf
Since that study, social isolation and ways to remedy it has been the subject of frequent discussions. In December, 2016, the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Coastal Health and Metro Vancouver presented CONNECT: Catalyzing a Social Movement, a day-long event that offered a range of activities to engage and teach participants about making connections. The conference was facilitated by The Leverage Lab, a project incubated by SPEC, and Richard Drake, Coordinator of the SPEC Elders Circle, co-hosted the workshop on inclusiveness.
The conference brought together people from diverse backgrounds to share music, food, and workshop experiences. Workshops were presented by academic, non-profit and government practitioners who study, advocate and deliver services to vulnerable populations or who are responsible for preparing for events that threaten our normal systems of communication, transportation, medical support, food security, etc. Participants explored our collective impact on energizing a movement around social connectedness in the Metro Vancouver region.
Workshop topics included:
measuring social connection,
Besides the workshops, there were a number of ‘connecting experiences’ that quickly crossed the barriers of separateness and put participants in touch with each other. I met several new people, some peripherally but with four new people I exchanged cards and put them immediately on a list to follow up with to build on our common interests.
This is a good news story at a time when we seem to be pulling apart and straining the seams of our social bonds. Kudos to the local political and health authorities for addressing the barriers of isolation and separation. These barriers make us vulnerable to messages of fear that lead to suspicion of differences and indifference to vulnerabilities. We can bring civility, preparedness and resiliency into our relationships through housing and other programs that rebuild our sense of ‘The Commons.’ And we can revitalize bonds of trust, mutuality, and safety that are the heart of community and allow us to respond effectively and compassionately to crises.
The City of Vancouver, Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health are seeking ongoing feedback and connection with citizens about this issue and these concerns. SPEC, an urban environmental organization recognizes the profound link between social and environmental sustainability and supports all elements of this outreach to citizens. If you’re someone who feels drawn to start a neighbourhood conversation or learn information and/or skills that support these connections, download the city’s VanConnect APP at http://vancouver.ca/vanconnect.aspx Or you can call or email SPEC. We are partnered with Kitsilano Neighbourhood House in an ongoing outreach to our urban community to make and sustain the connections of social harmony, resiliency and environmental integrity.
— Carole, SPEC President
Society Promoting Environmental Conservation – now in our 48th year.
www.spec.bc.ca or firstname.lastname@example.org
Article from Vancouver-Point Grey Community Office Fall 2016 Newsletter, David Eby, MLA
We had a quick chat with Oliver Lane, Exec Director of SPEC on the role of this great organization in the community.
Q. What’s the best thing about working with SPEC?
A. The people. It is a pleasure to work with staff and volunteers that bring such a diversity of knowledge, interests and culture and that share values and a passion for sustainability. SPEC is like a container for great people and great ideas to flourish. And we do our best to support that.
Why did you become a farmer?
“I left my office job to look for more fulfilling work in the environmental sector and through volunteering discovered that organic farming satisfied the environmentalist in me as well as giving me a sense of satisfaction that comes with hard, physical work, and seeing concrete results of your efforts.”
What are the main challenges you face as a farmer?
“Balancing work-life in the summer – there are endless tasks (and weeds) but not making time for myself only results in burn out. Another challenge is financial stability.”
Aside from fresh local food, what other values do you provide to your community through farming that people might not know about, for example, a place for pollinators, supporting biodiversity?
“My farm is one of two small mixed organic farms in my area of Richmond surrounded by blueberries and cranberries creating an ideal environment for pollinators and birds improving biodiversity.
Through my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, I introduce people to eating in season, new vegetables and varieties of familiar veggies, and an appreciation for good food.”
How can people in the community support urban agriculture, food security and healthy ecosystems? What is your call to action?
“Talk to your farmer! Ask about practices, connect with them, Certifications are not everything, and you can learn a lot about what grows well, when. Plus a lot of us love to talk about what we do, this is a labour of love.”
“I used to work in a government office doing IT and found myself looking out the window all the time longing to be in the fresh air and sunshine. I started volunteering with the permaculture Vancouver meet-up group and loved the experience of gardening and growing food in the community so I decided to get into it commercially.”
“Having stable and affordable access to land is a challenge. We are on a short term lease so reluctant to invest in infrastructure and permanent/long term plantings of perennials (fruit trees, nuts, berries…)”
“We keep beehives and chickens at our farm and have flower gardens and hedge rows. We try to make habitat for bats, dragon flies, butterflies and other critters, birds and pollinators.”
“Try growing something! Herbs and tomatoes are what I started out with on my apartment balcony. Community gardens are great places to meet other gardeners and see what grows here. Come visit our farm – we have volunteer days and are happy to connect with people.”
It has been a fruitful, and veggieful, year at the school gardens!
— Nikoo, School Gardens Program Coordinator
The SPEC Elders Circle is a new initiative within SPEC that’s rooted in the belief that elders and society have much to gain by elders embracing their wisdom role and offering insight and knowledge to younger generations drawn from life experience and accumulated learning.
When I was about 55, (I’m now 75) I began to notice that the major topic of conversation with retired friends was travel. I was uneasy about the carbon intensity of air travel. But I was in denial and shy to raise embarrassing questions, so I quietly brooded on my own questions. We all agreed that we’re living in a great place and raved about how good it was to get home. So why were we traveling so much? Were we too narrowly focused on the next adventure and not on the legacy we’re leaving behind? Were we modeling an ennobling role as elders or the more dubious freedom of no longer having a meaningful role?
Travel, while enjoyable, didn’t resonate with the deeper dimension that I was pondering as I pushed past the retirement age. As a kid, I was taught to respect my elders and the words “elder” and “wisdom” have always communicated something about older age that was attractive to me. To be a senior is not necessarily to be wise. On the other hand, it’s the tradition of every culture that elders carry knowledge of a life lived, that they have passed through the fires of individuation and self-preoccupation to a greater perspective on what really matters, that they have gathered, sifted, and have something of substance to share.
The great psychologist, CG Jung describes the 2nd half of life as the period when we make significant and discriminating insights about meaning, spirituality, and wisdom. While it’s not true for everyone, the elder years are those in which we’re most likely to harvest the fruits of wisdom. David Suzuki calls it the most important time in his life and a time to speak from the heart.
I was 65 when I began to use the phrase, “reclaiming elder wisdom.” I started a blog by that name with the strong intention of sharing my view that this is a dignified role which we should neither squander nor surrender to the notion it’s no longer needed. I never wrote that first blog entry and never carried on that conversation. It took the interest of a younger woman to draw out of me this wish for a dialogue around our elder legacy and to help me secure a grant to start an Elders Circle in SPEC. It is becoming a reality and our first meeting with interested elders will happen on June 23.
As an intern at SPEC, I´ve received so much information about everything environmental. And there is something important I would like to share with you. Monsters are real.
For this year’s 2016 Earth Day Celebration, four of us (SPEC volunteers Carol, Hisayo, and Shona) took part in two events. The first one was at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School.
All over the world such events make us more aware of what is going on this planet of ours. How does the Earth feel today? Good? Bad? Does it have a stuffy nose and watery eyes, or is it healthy as a nut?, as we say in Swedish.
Lunch was a good example of how a whole school can reduce their waste. Participants got more than one reminder before the event to bring our own plate, utensils and a cup. They provided the food, but we would provide no waste. And people did that. The food was vegan and gluten-free, so I was happy, as I could enjoy it as well.
A few minutes past twelve, suddenly the lunch room was overwhelmed by the noise of students flooding in through the doors, and then the event started.
One thing I noticed was that the students too had their own jars and forks with them. Most of them had thermoses instead of plastic bottles or paper cups. I was really happy to see that.
At one display table, students made their own signs promoting more bicycle usage, as well as an experiment. It was two see-through water bottles. Both had water in them with a sign that said: Do you taste the difference? One was bought bottled water and the other was tap water—the water you get directly from your faucet. I loved the student’s creativity and cleverness.
By the way, do you know how big the state of Texas is? Now imagine it twice the size, made of plastic waste, and put it in the ocean. Remember, I told you that monsters are real.
In one study, it found that the average family uses around 500 plastic bags a year. To show just how much plastic that is, SPEC volunteers took 500 plastic bags and made a monster out of it. Hisayo had the great honour to representing trash that day.
The second event was at Laura Secord Elementary School where we talked trash. Lit-t-erally.
As the students gathered closer to the board and the projector screen lit up, all eyes focused on the topic of waste — the waste we produce at home, in school, at work, and when we go out. That waste has to end up somewhere, right? This was the topic of the workshop. What happens to our waste?
Here is one story that I would like to share with you. In 1986, there was a ship named Khian Sea that left Philadelphia with toxic ash because the city didn't want it, and neither did New Jersey. Or any other city for that matter. So Khian Sea started to sail to different countries and places to dump the ash somewhere, and no one wanted it. Greenpeace writes in their report back in June 2010 this: "Two years, three names, four continents, and 11 countries later, the troublesome cargo was still on board. Then, somewhere in the Indian Ocean between Singapore and Sri Lanka all the ash disappeared. When questioned about this, the crew had no comment except that it was all gone."
And it wasn't the only one. In the report, you can also read about other ships from the Italian hub, the Mediterranean area and Africa.
Before I depart back to Sweden, I'd like to share this thought with you. During my intern-ship, I’ve learned that not everyone needs to be in love with the Earth, but it is important to remember that we all enjoy living here. Right?
—SPEC Intern Jamie
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