By Daniel Mark
Natural disasters used to be remarkable news. Hurricanes that take out entire power grids for months on end. Floods that close transit systems and trap people in elevators. Heat waves in eastern Canada that literally kill people. Now, because of climate change, they’re anything but.
On Oct. 8, 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report that was, more or less, a prediction of the end of modern society. By the year 2040, we have to reduce our carbon emissions to around 50 per cent of what they were in 2010 – that is, if we want any chance of saving ourselves. We no longer have the luxury of time to discuss the reality of our situation and so I’m going to give you a reason to do something now.
First off, people will die. But those people are, for the most part, so far away that it can be hard to care. I’m sure there’s some psychological name for this concept of not giving a shit, but I’ll leave that for you to Google later.
Let’s explore closer to home. I was at a vineyard a couple weeks ago, and the owners were talking about how unprepared they are for the rapidly changing climate. It’s not just wine. Food itself is going to become more scarce and expensive, and I can pretty much guarantee at some point in the future you will be buying food grown in a lab or made from crushed up insects (this is not a hyperbole, these are actually the two most likely options). Still don’t care?
Parents often say they would take a bullet for their kids. But right now, we are all pointing a gun at our future kids’ heads. Picture your future sons and daughters, because they’re the ones we will have to apologize to one day. By ‘focusing on the economy’ and supporting fossil fuel companies, we are not leaving behind a stable financial future – we’re leaving our children a society fighting for basic needs: water, clean air, and space to live.
When mass migration begins to the safer regions of the world, this is what will happen. In that kind of a society, the economy will be the least of humanity’s worries. I wish I could tell you I was exaggerating.
That got pretty dark. At this point, I would bet you are expecting me to give you some reason for hope. Well, I’m not. Don’t run screaming, I’m not saying there is no hope, but I can’t tell you that you can stop worrying.
Actually, on second thought, do that. Get up, get dressed, and start screaming. Scream your heart out. Get on your laptop and urge local politicians to support carbon-free initiatives like the Light Rail Transit coming to Hamilton, urge provincial politicians to develop an actual climate plan, and urge our federal government to force major, rapid change.
This change isn’t bad, and it isn’t even that hard. Large-scale shifts in our society to renewable energy will actually stabilize the energy sector of our economy. It might cost a lot initially, but in the long run, we will have a clean planet and a thriving economy at the same time. That sounds like a good compromise for the business minds of DeGroote School of Business and the science minds of Burke Science Building.
Changes can be small-scale, too, and those are just as important. Buy less plastic, recycle, take the bus instead of driving if you’re a commuter! These things sound cliché, but they actually make a huge difference— not to mention, if you bring a travel mug to most coffee chains like Tim Hortons, you get a 10 cent discount.
It’s possible, guys. We are literally on the brink of the end of the fucking world as we know it. Someday, our children will look back and judge us on this year, this pivotal moment in time. It is up to you whether they see it as the time we saved the world, or the time we sat on our privileged asses with our venti double-mocha frappe and watched it burn.
Jennifer Yee is the self-proclaimed love child of Stevie Nicks and Indiana Jones, an identity I realized she’s adopted wholeheartedly as we went on a little adventure around her Riverdale neighbourhood looking for community gardens and a worker-owned natural food market.
In recent years she’s delved deep into researching ways she can adopt a more sustainable and ethical lifestyle. From making her day to day tasks more green to acting as a natural ambassador and advocate, how she impacts the environment and the world around her is always on her mind.
Yee recognizes the challenges of going zero-waste, avoiding fast fashion and its negative impact on the environment and workers and changing habits and mindsets around more ethical, environmentally-friendly and sustainable practices.
Despite how easy it may be to partake in practices that save us time and money, ultimately there’s no convenience in neglecting the environment. Yee had an abundance of tips and tricks that can be implemented into daily routines for those that are up for the challenge.
Single-use plastics can easily be replaced by investing in a reusable counterpart. Grab your coffee in the morning in a travel mug and keep a reusable bottle on you. There’s a diverse selection of budget-friendly and washable produce bags for your groceries made from mesh, cotton or recycled plastic.
Sustainable food storage can be tricky to navigate, especially when packing food is made so much easier with Ziploc bags. Wrap foods in reusable beeswax wrap and consider an eco-friendly lunch bag. FUNCH is a collapsible, washable, water and tear-resistant option made from recycled material. Toss in some bamboo or metal utensils and you’re set for lunch.
Billions of tiny bits of plastics escape into our waterways from hygiene and beauty products. Avoid bath products, cleansers and toothpastes with microbeads as they do not enhance the effectiveness of the product but rather add to the plastic pollution crisis.
Washing clothing also sheds plastics in the form of microfibers. Polyester fleece garments tend to be the biggest offenders and Friends of the Earth report that one wash load could shed up to 17 million microfibers. Yee recommends placing clothing in a special bag, such as Guppy Bag, that is designed to catch microfibers as the clothing gets washed. Washing at low temperatures and a full load can also reduce shedding.
Think about the packing products come in and consider investing in companies that have recycling practices. For menstrual products, menstrual cups can be an easy-to-use and less wasteful alternative to pads and tampons. Yee recommends the Ruby Cup which also has a social mission model wherein they donate a cup with every purchase.
[spacer height="20px"]It’s also important to develop an understanding of recycling practices in your own community and on campus as they may differ. For example, coffee cups and pizza boxes with grease are not recyclable at McMaster. The university has a composting initiative, recycling program and nine electronics collection drop-off locations. Acceptable items for recycling are outlined on the university’s website.
Wasteful practices on campus also include the plethora of take-out containers thrown out on a daily basis. Avoiding take-out may be difficult with the limited space for sit-down meals but being conscious of how much food to order, the kind of container offered and bringing your own storage containers to avoid waste can go a long way.
There are plenty of local options in Hamilton that offer eco-friendly dining. The Nook was renovated with minimal waste and tries to operate as close to zero-waste as possible. Dundurn Market as well as the Mustard Seed Co-op have a focus on supporting local eating, which ultimately reduces impact on the environment.
[spacer height="20px"]While Hamilton’s food scene is increasingly paying attention to more sustainable practices, the slow fashion scene is thriving too. Hamilton’s Out of the Past and McMaster’s very own Threadwork events promote reusing clothing and reducing waste.
Yee recalls experiencing a huge learning curve while changing habits and picking up environmentally-friendly practices. A simple reminder of why she pursues her lifestyle as an environmentalist, advocate and wild keeper keeps her going.
It may be difficult, but the environment is worth taking a moment and thinking about the place we each have in the world and how we are impacting it with every move we make.
By: Devra Charney
Dear City of Hamilton Garbage and Recycling Day,
You know that I love you. Love waking up for you every Monday at 6:59 a.m. Love not seeing my garbage collected until three hours later. Love it when sometimes my flyers from last week end up scattered on my front lawn. But there are a few concerns I’d like to discuss. Where better to start than at the beginning: my first encounter with you, which, coincidentally, was the same morning that my housemates and I discovered our infestation of fruit flies.
We had been keeping our garbage in the mudroom, since despite your friendly online advice to put our trash out anytime after 7 p.m. the night before, we wanted to avoid raccoons knocking over the bins and tearing into the bags. Until your arrival on Monday morning, we thought that we had devised an effective strategy for avoiding garbage-related pests. Upon opening the door to the back room, though, we were greeted by a swarm of fruit flies buzzing around our lidless bins.
We hauled our green bin, recycling, and garbage bin out to the curb to make sure that we’d be on time for your 7 a.m. collection before doing damage control in the kitchen. Google searches eventually yielded a recipe that claimed we could solve our problem by placing a concoction of vinegar and dish soap in containers around the room. For the duration of our fruit fly eradication, we decided to keep our bins outside until the house was fly free.
When our garbage was finally collected mid-afternoon, our green bin had the same number of bags in it as before you came. Although your web guide promises a note providing a list of possible reasons our trash could have been skipped, no such explanation was left for our full bags of wet waste. Through the process of elimination, we learned that green bins are not collected when compostable waste is placed in non-biodegradable bags.
As it turns out, raccoons aren’t as particular about bag choices as you are because a few days later, our green bin was lying on its side with food scraps spilling out of its open lid. No trace of bags could be found amongst the blackened banana peels and crushed eggshells. We might not have had a fruit fly problem in our kitchen anymore, but the number of flies circling our green bin came close to the number caught in our vinegar and dish soap traps.
For the first time, our garden hose and shovel were put to good use. We scooped the mound of rotted food scraps into a biodegradable bag so that it would not be passed over on your next arrival and hosed down our green bin until it looked clean enough to eat out of, even for non-raccoons. Our final step was placing all of our bins safely back inside the mudroom.
You’ve thrown us a lot of curve balls, Garbage and Recycling Day, but next Monday morning, we’ll be ready for you. 6:59 a.m. can’t get here early enough.
Fruit Fly and Raccoon Wranglers of McMaster