Hello readers! My name is Skye and I was one of the UVSP's work-study students this past year. I've just finished my first year in Anthropology at UVic, and have returned home to Manitoba for the summer months. I wanted to write this blog post to talk about some of the sustainable habits that I am striving to create this summer! These six habits will hopefully take me one step closer to reducing my environmental footprint, and create achievable practices for sustainable living that will follow me into the next school year.
1. Selling unwanted items
When spring cleaning mode hits, I always accumulate piles of clothing items that I have been neglecting during the school year. Summer is a great time to get rid of unwanted items, and make some spending money. Using websites created for selling items secondhand, such as Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji, will allow you to curate your wardrobe, and keep clothing items out of the dumpster!
2. Starting a small garden
A small backyard garden can be a great introduction into sustainable food growth, and working in your garden can be a very rewarding summer activity. Raised garden beds can be found at stores such as Canadian Tire, or they can be a fun DIY project. Vegetables such as carrots and lettuce are super easy to grow, and are easily incorporated into every day meals.
Adding pollinating plants in amongst the other plants in your garden is a great way to increase the pollinator activity in, and around your area. Just make sure to pick plants that are native to the area that you are in!
3. Volunteering for an Environmental Non-profit
Volunteering with groups in your community is not only a great way to give back to your community and the environment, but it is also a great way to educate yourself. Environmental NGOs and volunteer groups that do various activities such as invasive species pulls and beach cleanups offer great opportunities to meet passionate peers and people who are experienced in their fields. Although books and documentaries are great resources for learning more about the environment around you, there is nothing like doing hands-on work.
If you’re interested, a great group on campus to volunteer with is the Ecological Restoration Club or the ERC. They do lots of hands-on restoration work and are a welcoming community for volunteers of all abilities and experience-levels.
4. Eating local and plant-based foods
Plant based meals can greatly reduce your environmental footprint if you are intentional with them. Many people call themselves ‘Locavores’ and choose to primarily eat food sourced from their own communities. Local food sourcing is often easiest in the summer, boasting plenty of farmers markets with local vendors selling fresh food products. Understanding where your food comes from and how it was grown can increase your awareness of your carbon footprint and environmental impact, and respect for the places in which you live, work, and play.
5. Repairing used and worn-out clothing
Instead of throwing out clothing that has been damaged, summer break is a great time to learn how to either repair old clothing yourself, or find local clothing repair businesses. Watch tutorials on YouTube, or ask friends and family to teach you. This will not only keep clothing in your weekly rotation, but also add unique touches to your clothing items. You can even find some cool patches at thrift stores that can be added to larger rips or tears!
Summer break can be a great time to catch up on any reading goals that you might have set for yourself at the beginning of the year. I always take advantage of the nice weather and read outside before and after work days. Reading is also a great way to educate yourself and broaden your perspectives. The UVSP has created a Goodreads list that includes a great selection of books, perfect for reading on long summer days — which I think is worth checking out!
I hope you enjoyed reading this list and found something you'd like to try out this summer! Happy summer break!
This blog post includes the Q & A component of the Zero Waste Bulk Shopping Info-Session hosted by the UVSP with guest speaker Sally McIntyre, an employee at Zero Waste Emporium and the chair of Surfrider Foundation Vancouver Island. This event was hosted on December 14, 2020.
Questions from the work-studies:
"What are some key tips for those who want to start minimizing their waste?"
Look at your trash and see if there are areas where you can reduce your waste in
Use up what you already have first before going out to buy new zero-waste products
Share with one another useful tips/resources you find about living minimally
“What are your go-to zero waste items and/or zero waste practices? What are you looking for when you are going to buy something new?”
Buy something that you’re going to use every day and is useful
A food container, especially ones made out of steel, as those are very versatile
Something to clean dishes with, such as a bottle brush with wooden handles
Things you can’t easily DIY
Beeswax wraps to help prevent food waste
Bamboo toothbrushes (Side note: Only the bamboo handle is compostable. The bristles are plastic and has to be plucked out with pliers and recycled after finishing with the toothbrush)
“What are some key tips for those who want to start shopping in bulk?”
Having a list before coming into the store
Calling the store if they have it in stock before actually going in
Come in with pre-washed containers or bags (Zero Waste Emporium has pre-weighed containers that others have donated that you can use, as well as jars for you to use that is by deposit)
Be prepared when coming in
Don’t be intimidated or afraid to ask questions; all the workers at zero waste stores want to help you
“When you were looking for jobs, what were some key company values and practices that you were looking for?”
Sally came to Vancouver Island after the completion of her masters degree and began volunteering with Surfrider Foundation. She then worked with a consulting company, but realized that her workplace didn’t have the same values in terms of environmental conservation. She decided to switch gears last year and apply to Zero Waste Emporium.
Sally talked of how important it is that no matter what work you do, that your work environment shares the same values as you. Since you spend every day with them, it’s important to make sure it’s healthy for you and you’re passionate about what you do.
Sally works at Zero Waste Emporium because of passion and purpose. With working at Zero Waste Emporium, she is helping people transition their life and building community by talking about lifestyle changes.
“When looking at the entire sustainability and environmental movement in the current climate, it looks very white. How do you practice anti-racism in the zero waste community? How can we diversify this movement?”
“People that look at this movement usually see it as new and trendy, and people usually jump it on because it’s trendy and not making the connection between the environment and the movement. We need to recognize where these ideas come from in order to diversify and decolonize it. A lot of these ways of living have been around for thousands of years. For example, Sally has a friend from India who already had stainless steel containers. He came from a city where people were already living this way for generations and making things from the plants around them and not terminating anything. It is important to recognize the people that have done this for generations, and involve them more in conversations. To live how our ancestors did and the people who were on this land. When you look deeper, zero waste isn’t revolutionary. Zero waste is a lofty goal for us, and it’s hard to say that anyone’s able to fully do that right now.”
Q & A from the audience:
“Do you have any recommendations for zero waste gift wrapping?”
Using materials you already have in the home, such as tea towels
Furoshiki- Japanese wrapping with cloth (looks pretty and is useful)
Craft paper (it’s compostable!)
Beeswax wrap (useful afterward)
Cloth produce bag (useful afterward)
Give the gift naked
Do it in a creative way, such as a scavenger hunt
“What are your thoughts on if Costco is sustainable?”
Depends on what it’s packaged in (ie paper wrapping is more sustainable)
Some people that shop at Costco thinks that it's less expensive but they're hoarding all this food and has to throw it out because they can’t finish it all in time
“Is a sale great if you have to buy 5 and have to use it in time before it expires?”
“Where's the waste going to? Landfill or compost?”
“Do you think zero-waste shopping is affordable, and how can you make it affordable?”
Seeing what you have already
Do you really need it? Is it going to be revolutionary?
Don't be distracted when you go in; going in and leaving with what you need
Depends on if the foods are organic and seeing what you can afford. This in itself can be a socioeconomic barrier on why some people cannot buy this food
Fill in the gaps of what you don't have that you need to buy
Being on track with what you need instead of being distracted
“Do you think the zero waste movement encourages the thinking that it is the individual’s responsibility to “fix” these greater issues? How can the government/industry etc be held responsible for our one-use culture?”
Change has to be on all levels. It’s hard because consumers have free will and can make choices on their own accord, but sometimes marketing can get people to act differently. Individuals' actions have an impact, but there has to be a bigger change on those that manufacture these products to find sustainable alternatives. We as a society have to analyze what's actually ‘sustainable.’ People think biodegradable plastics are sustainable, but they’re not because a lot of the composting facilities can not handle these materials. It’s on the producer to find sustainable alternatives and ask “what kind of society do we live in and how will the product add to people's lives.” Also, governments need to have regulations. A lot of recycling doesn’t really work because it’s mostly going to go into the landfill. In order to influence governments and producers, we need to put pressure on them and demand change as consumers. Companies want to hear what consumers want, and if they don’t hear feedback, they won’t change. Doing what you can individually is going to make an impact on your region and your locality.
“What is available for low waste flossing?”
Zero waste emporium carries silk floss by Ola Bamboo (it isn’t refillable, so you have to recycle the packaging) and Dental Lace (glass tub that you put the silk floss in, and you continue adding refills in).
Location of Zero Waste Emporium in Victoria, BC:
Author's Note: Thank you for reading and I hope you found this summary helpful! We at the UVSP hope to see you at our next event! Follow us on Instagram, FaceBook, and sign up for your monthly newsletter that can be found at the bottom of the Home Page to stay up to date on what we do. Happy New Year everyone!
Commuter and recreational cyclist in Victoria.
Victoria is ranked the most bike friendly city in Canada according to CBC. British Columbia is known for its cyclability and culture around cycling (on the roads and off). The ‘Biketoria Project’ by the City Council of Victoria has implemented a 5.4 km grid of bike lanes in the downtown Victoria core. My experience biking downtown has been safe and a wonderful way to experience Victoria. These bike lanes make cycling very accessible and safe especially for tourists and new cyclists. There are traffic lights specifically for bikes and separated bike lanes in the main downtown corridors. However, as a Victoria local this Biketoria Project should be spread farther than the downtown core. These changes must be implemented in the rest of Victoria to be used effectively and benefit the entire community. Connectivity to ensure bike safety should be prioritized in lower income areas, school zones, business/industry parks, and near post secondary institutions as well. Bike lane location should reflect and connect the routes cyclists take daily, not just for tourists and folks living in higher income neighbourhoods. Safety in the city for cyclists should include everyone as best as possible. Main roads, for example Shelbourne Street and Bay Street, connect many elementary and high schools, university and college campuses to neighbourhoods. I think these are important routes to note (as well as many others) since cyclists use these routes to get to and from school, work, and home.
Cycling must-haves in Victoria:
Bike safety tips, resources, events, webinars, and more can be explored on the Greater Victoria Bike to Work organization’s website: https://biketoworkvictoria.ca/resources/ . Knowing the rules of the road to ride safely in traffic is essential for bicycle and vehicle cooperation. Greater Victoria also has intricate and beautiful bicycle and pedestrian pathways. This includes the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, the Lochside Trail, the Colquitz River Trail, the Royal Oak Trail, and more. These can be found on the Greater Victoria Bike to Work website. A map of the Victoria and Central Saanich area can be found with this link: http://biketoworkvictoria.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/saanich-vic.pdf . Stay safe on the roads and explore this beautiful place!
There are lots of opportunities on campus all throughout North America for students to dive into environmental activities. But what if you want to broaden your reach, and be a part of something bigger? The University of Victoria Sustainability Project (UVSP) has always been a supporter in providing funding for grass-root environmental and social projects. We do have a limited budget, so we generally don’t provide funding a second time.
We challenge students to be financially resilient after their initial start-up funds, and to get creative. Another funding priority is to allow youth to experience national-scale sustainable leadership trainings and conferences. What can you get out of these training? Check out the descriptions and videos below to see how you can get involved!
Whether you are Irish by heritage or green by heart, there is an opportunity for everyone to green their St. Patrick’s day and lower their personal carbon footprint. It’s certainly a chance for everyone to have a bit of fun. Here are a few suggested items you can do:
Drink green: before you plan to consume alcohol, consider having a proper breakfast in the morning, and maybe add on a green spinach or kale smoothie. When it comes time for alcohol, make sure you know your limits, and choose local craft or organic beers; support the local economy.
Eat organically and locally green: Try having a meatless St. Patrick ’s Day. There are delicious vegetable roast recipes you can try. You could invite friends over for some communal cooking; Irish vegetable stew is always a great option for this occasion.
Wear green organics: Invest in an outfit you will wear again, and if possible, make sure it’s made from recycled or organic materials. You could also shop at a thrift store and give a second life to the clothing item.
Switch on the Green Transport mode:
If you are drinking, please don’t drive. If you are the designated driver, try using an electric vehicle or a car-share option. Taking the public bus or walking by foot is the better and safer option. Try to walk with groups of friends or pairs; safety is first.
St. Patrick ’s Day doesn’t have to be about binge drinking and getting a heavy hangover the next day. It’s important to have fun, and why not do it while visiting a pub within walking or bussing distance, and getting locally craft beer in a reusable glass cup. You could also fill up a growler if you are planning to go to friend’s house or host a party at your own. There are so many creative and low-carbon footprint ways to celebrate this fun holiday.
Try not to buy cheap disposable party gear. Instead, decorate your home with real long-lasting green plants. They will create cleaner air for you and your guests! No matter how you plan to ‘green’ your St. Patrick’s day, make sure you make careful decisions and think about the impact of those on yourself, the people around you, and the larger ecosystem. You could even start a friendly competition to see who can celebrate the lowest-carbon footprint St. Patrick’s day, and the winner gets to wear the ultimate green hat!
Whether you celebrate valentines or not, we can smell flowers and chocolate in the air. It is important to keep Fair Trade in mind when consuming products like these. If it is expensive, it does not mean that it was ethically sourced. You may just be paying for the packaging or brand.
A lot of the roses come from Columbia or Ecuador at this time of the year, and farm working conditions are often far from being rosy. If there isn’t a label, ask the store manager where the flower or chocolate comes from. There are currently flowers from BC, and this would be the lower-carbon footprint choice. Below are a few places and brands you can start with for Chocolate and flowers.
Remember that Fair trade flowers and chocolates are not only important during valentines, but all throughout the year. In my experience, it tastes better and closer to home. I know the prices of these tend to be higher, but this way you actually do buy less than the commercial sales that entice you to buy more than you actually need, so at the end of the day, you are being socially, environmentally, and economically responsible. Have a fair valentines everyone!
Shops that sell:
Fair trade/local BC flowers:
It’s one of the most popular beverages we crave in the mornings, during the day, and for a boost during those late nights of procrastination. But there is more to just a cup of coffee or tea.
Where does it come from? Who picked our coffee cherries? Do they really look like cherries in their fresh form? (Yes.) What about our rice, coconut oil, spices, vanilla beans, cotton, fruit, and everything we can so easily buy off the shelves in stores here. Where do they all come from?
I’m part of the UVic Sustainability Project, which focuses on climate change awareness, outreach, global food systems and security, fair trade, and sustainable behaviour change. It’s a fabulous student-run organization to be involved with, and we are primarily funded through the Student Society (UVSS). We organized a trip on November 27 to visit a local coffee trading and roaster: Level Ground Trading.
Stacey Toews, co-founder of Level Ground Trading, speaks from the heartOne of the stand-out stories of the afternoon visit was how every year Level Ground invests a Direct Fair Trade community premium when they purchase Colombian coffee.
Since 1998, they’ve invested in Famicafe in Colombia, which has granted 1,184 academic scholarships so far to rural youth in Colombia, plus investments in infrastructure development in rural mountain schools. Learn more about Level Ground’s values.
Stacey also showed us photos of his small-scale farm (pigs, chickens, eggs, squash, vegetables, onions, potatoes, and more) which was inspiring to our team sitting around the wooden table. Stacey is very family-oriented, and it shows in all his actions both at home and abroad. Stacey and his team are all committed to making good and ethical money for deep social purposes.
Direct fair trade is driven by more than just a few tick boxes to make sure working conditions meet minimum standards. It is above and beyond. Stacey emphasized that international direct trading partnership is based on dialogue, transparency, and respect.
They acknowledge the hard work and risk involved with growing and selling crops, and they focus on giving farmers the opportunity to support sustainable environmental practices whilst increasing independence, education, and positive and safe work conditions.
It is hard to imagine something as simple as buying rice or coconut oil off the grocery store shelves probably required hundreds of laborious hours under unsafe working conditions thousands of miles away in another continent.
Women sometimes have to walk more than five hours carrying sacks of rice or buckets of water equivalent to three times their body weight. It is hard to imagine, but it is the truth.
So the next time you are about to purchase something that is not grown locally in Canada, maybe pay a little extra attention to the packaging, labeling, and company. Your choice and your dollars can make a huge difference.
“One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world,” said Malala Yousafzai
Who would you rather be? A slave or a lion?
I had the privilege to watch the documentary on an inspiring young teenager’s journey as she survived a gunshot to the head from the Taliban in Pakistan for speaking out for a right to education. She lived a risky life there, and was a refugee in her own country at one point. There is often a confusion between religion and terrorism. It’s not the same. The Taliban and any extremist group were not selling religion or faith; they were selling an ideology. We shouldn’t forget this doesn’t only happen in developing countries. We see this in our very own modern developed countries, just disguised in a different form. We also see this in history.
When the Taliban first started, people thought they were good. When Napoleon first started, people thought he was good too. But then it changed. Power and greed took over. When Wall Street was booming, people thought profit was great! But when we saw the greed and power leading to the 2008 financial crisis, it’s not so fun anymore is it?
As someone from the Middle East, I want to remind the world, misuse of power isn’t only evident in the forms of violence and weapons. It can be seen in the CEO’s of large organizations. It can be seen through women and LGBT communities who continue to fight the unequal salary battles.
Why do we call it “coming out of the closet”? Why did the closet exist in the first place? Why do we have to silence who we are because of what society dictates what the ‘norm’ is? Why do people have to risk their lives and reputation to go to school, get an education, and gain a position requiring more responsibility?
Malala did not stop being an education activist. She is bravery. She stood up. One very interesting point she made is she is indifferent than the 66 million and more girls who are deprived of education. She isn’t unique, and this is why her story is one she shares with many. Raise your voice because children have the right to childhood, and people have the right to education.
Education gives you the power to challenge & question things. Despite the destruction of over 300 schools in Taliban, Malala continued to raise her voice. Fear will silent you. So be brave.
My personal connection to Malala’s story
I was always the girl in class who raised my hands. That is the number one thing my father pinned into my head every day before he sent me off to school. “Always ask. Don’t stop asking until you truly understand. Don’t be ashamed.” I carry his words to this very day. In university, I challenged the tradition ‘race to the bottom’ and infinite economy growth our textbooks outlined in my business textbooks. Does it make sense? If the sole purpose of business was to generate continuous wealth for a small amount of people, what would our world look like in 20 years?
We are already seeing the effects of polluted air, water, and extreme drought. I am not an environmentalist. Yes, the environment is at risk, but so are political and social systematic issues. I am being activist for the people in the Middle East who wake up every day hoping they won’t have to hear a bombing, or the children in China who hope to be able to see the moon or just one star in the clouds of smog. I am being an activist to change the way our schools teach business. I am the change, and will continue my passion, values, and loud voice till it makes an impact! There is no time more critical than now for the privileged nations to do something, take action, and accept that we have to change, for the benefit of not a few, but for the greater. It’s time to think about ‘us’ and not just ‘me’.
So who would you rather be? A slave or a lion? Being a loud lion comes with its risks, but the misery you drown yourself in as a slave will kill you slowly with great suffer.
Here are a few simple questions: Do we have the right to social, environmental, political, and economic sustainability? Do we have the right to education? Do we have the right to clean air? Do we have the right to grow food in our own backyards? Do we have the right to go off-grid and self-sustain our renewable energy supply? I believe everything starts with education, and this is only the beginning.
It’s so hard to get things done in this world. You try so hard, and too often it doesn’t work. But you have to keep going because every NO is a step closer to getting you to a YES. You have to keep trying, and raise your voice, ask those challenging questions. Unbiased education questions things, and make you think critically, and holistically. Think about our current climatic, social, and economic issues. How will we solve it? Change is tough, but so is life. It is up to every one of us to pursue this change.
Education has the power to change things for the better, and this life, is a choice. So what’s your choice? A slave or a lion?
When a company serves their smoothies and other hot beverages in ‘compostable cups’, recycles bottles and cans, and installs energy efficient lighting, they can claim their ‘sustainability fame’. What does sustainability mean to you? For many, the word itself is now attached with ‘green’, ‘eco’, and ‘environmental’ connotations, but for me, the word has been overused and is dead. It’s lost its meaning. Think about everything that we buy and do every day. Have you ever asked yourself if I keep doing this for the next 10 years, how will it create value for myself and our communities? Most people don’t care to think about it, but for the next few days, I challenge you to. Is your choice and action viable? And who does it benefit beyond yourself?
Forget about sustainability. I like to talk about viability: changes and actions that are possible, practical, and reasonable. A friend of mine has a tradition every Saturday brunch where he treats himself to his favourite Indian butter chicken. Upon Fall season, he realized he didn’t have enough money to buy a ticket to go home for Christmas. So I asked him, I know the Indian Butter Chicken is something you look forward to every weekend, but what if you sacrificed that and saved the money for a few months, and stopped your smoking and drinking habits so that you can save for a flight home. I pulled out the calculator, made the calculations, and showed him the numbers that it was a viable plan. It took some convincing, but he agreed to commit to the challenge I was proposal. It was probably something he never thought he could.
Before he flew home for Christmas that year, I invited him for cup of fair trade coffee at Habit Café downtown, and congratulated him for what he had accomplished, but also told him, you not only did yourself a favour economically, but socially and environmentally as well. He looked at me as if I was speaking in an alien language. By cutting out cigarettes, he was being socially and environmentally responsible so that others would not have to breathe in second-hand smoke, and there would be less litter and garbage. By cutting out the Indian butter chicken from his diet, and going for mid-day runs to achieve his target of building healthier physical habits, he improved his long-term health. “I never thought of it that way.” He said. “I was just trying to save money so I can buy a ticket home to see my family, but now that I see the bigger picture, I see how the benefits are interconnected.”
We live in an ecosystem. Our human bodies are ecosystems of their own. Without a healthy pumping heart, our organs won’t work, and without healthy kidneys, urinating would be very difficult; everything is interdependent of each other, and this is how our bodies are able to function day after day in a viable working system. The current economic system we like to focus a lot of attention to does not work, and we see it, but choose to ignore he issue. We choose to focus on economic differences because it’s what we’ve been taught in school, in books, at home, at work, but does it really work? I’m not proposing everyone should care about buying ethically sourced products, but I am proposing we should change the way businesses are run, and that ethical purchasing should be the norm, and that they can drive behavior changes a lot quicker.
From the Divest UVic Team: Written by Christina Price
Since February, Divest UVic worked hard to win the student referendum that was tied to the UVSS elections. By using the Nationbuilder program we were able to e-mail hundreds if not a few thousand students asking them to vote. We also printed off calling lists and called hundreds of students reminding them to vote. In the few weeks leading up to the referendum we had many tabling events and did many classrooms talks in order to build our petition and gather contact info. What was the result?
We won the referendum in March as 77% of students that voted, voted in favour of the UVSS lobbying the university to divest its holdings in fossil fuels! This was a crucial win for the campaign because now the campaign is sponsored by the UVSS which means we get more funding, personnel help in terms of UVSS staff time and a new flux of energetic student leaders who are passionate about the movement and wanting to see positive change towards sustainability.
An additional positive outcome of our Get-Out-The-Vote effort was that people who voted in favour of divestment also typically voted for UVSS candidates that were in favour of the movement as well as other sustainability initiatives. In this way, Divest UVic helped elect sustainability-oriented student society leaders. For example, Tristan Ryan, one of our most dedicated volunteers and organizers is now the Director of Finance and Nathan Michael, another Divest UVic volunteer and organizer is a Director at Large.
Emily Thiessen describes the activities of Divest UVic that took place over this summer:
"Over the summer, we began organizing in separate working groups. The research team read research briefs from Divest McGill, Divest U of T and other universities in order to inform our own report that will be sent to UVic's Board of Governors and Foundation Board.
The report will focus on how UVic-specific fossil fuel holdings have been performing, and how divested portfolios have been performing in the past year, as well as the benefits of divestment for the university's reputation. We also met with faculty, and staff from the Professional Employees Association, CUPE 4163, CUPE 917 and CUPE 915 to talk about upcoming staff resolutions on divestment, and how to collaborate in the future. We met with Jim Dunston, Associate Vice President Student Affairs, to discuss the possibility of collaboration. Divest UVic also participated in a nationwide action called We > Tar Sands in which students held sit-ins in their MP offices to call for stronger climate policy.”
Here are a few quotes from students who have been involved:
“Volunteering with Divest UVic has inspired me and given me hope for a better future because I can see the change that passionate, caring and committed people can create.” - Ida Jorgensen
“Volunteering with Divest UVic was great because it builds skills such as volunteer organization and public speaking.” - Jonah Timms
“I've learned skills in everything from volunteer coordination to writing a press release that will be useful for pretty much everything else I want to do.” - Emily Thiessen
“Being a part of Divest UVic has given me hope for positive change towards a more sustainable future and it’s such a privilege to work with such passionate people.” - Christina Price