Tag Archives: Sustainable Living

Mental Sustainability

When it comes to sustainable living, the first thing that comes to mind is probably reusable straws and planting trees. Or something along those lines. Green living goes in an out of fashion, as the human mind goes back and forth between good and bad habits.

As the school year is starting, we are all readjusting to academic life. Maybe that means going to school, going back to work, sending our kids off to school, or even just the change of seasons. The summer is over, winter is coming (overused GoT reference intended ironically) and – let’s face it – we’re all going to be watching more Netflix than we should, drinking more coffee than water, and doing our best not to have a mental breakdown.

In all seriousness, the first few weeks of September are especially stressful. Tuition and textbooks drain our bank accounts, whether it’s our own cost or for our kids. We are torn between the start of school parties and trying to start off with good study habits. Sleeping or lecture? Netflix or readings? Packing healthy lunches and snacks, and taking care of ourselves after a long day at work.

With the pressure of doing well, having a social life, taking care of a child, sleeping enough, paying for books, tuition and coffee, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. In this transition period, it’s important to develop sustainable mental habits that will get you through the entire school year.

Personally, I’m a sucker for buying nice planners, and notebooks. I set my standards ridiculously high in September. I promise myself I’ll cancel my Netflix account, and keep every assignment marked diligently in my overpriced planner from Chapters. I’ll hand things in early, be on time, never skip a class because I want to sleep in…

Sounds like a load of BS right? There’s nothing wrong with having high standards, and setting goals for yourself, but the problem with what I just told you is that these habits are not sustainable. If I were to hold myself to that for an entire year, I’d go crazy.

The trick is to find a balance between what is realistic, and pushing yourself to do your best. It’s a fine line between going easy on yourself and slacking off, between challenging yourself, and overworking yourself to exhaustion.

So this September, try to find that balance. Find habits that are sustainable for you. It will look different for everyone.

Students, maybe the girl sitting next to you in your lecture has perfect handwriting and colour coded notes, but that doesn’t mean that you need five colours of highlighter to do well.

Parents, maybe there’s that crazy overachiever mom who manages to go to every PTA meeting, coach the volleyball team and bake cookies for the entire class, but that’s not who you have to be to be a good parent.

No one can sustain this level of functioning forever.

And honestly, who knows what goes on behind the scenes?

I’ve learned that it’s best not to compare myself to anyone else, and focus on what works for me. I remember hearing once that comparison is the thief of happiness, and in my experience, I really believe that it’s true.

Maybe you need to take more breaks in your studying to keep your focus. Maybe it’s okay to wake up feeling like crap and decide to take a little extra sleep. If you’re feeling stressed, recognized that you’re feeling stressed instead of burying yourself further in work, or procrastinating to the last-minute.

It’s easy to fall to one extreme or the other. There can be a lot of pressure from your peers to pull all nighters, whether it’s to study for an exam, or for a party. But finding a balance will help you more in the long term. That’s what sustainability is about.

It’s not easy; if it was, we would all be doing it. But if we were all doing it, we would be so much better off.

May September bring you strength, balance, and sustainable practices.

Series written by Chantal Delaquis

No Dairy?! – Ethics

Veganism for health or for the environment is easy to get on board with. They are full of facts, statistics, and science. But ethics? That’s a trickier one. There isn’t a bunch of numbers and research I can throw at ya to convince you that consuming dairy isn’t ethical. The ethical motivation has got to come from your gut.

It’s nice for some to imagine that your milk comes from a cow who is free to roam, who loves her caretaker, and can’t wait to go in every morning to get pulled by the udders. The unfortunate truth is that basically none of the milk you can purchase at a store is harvested like this. And even if it was… why do we consume a cow’s milk, and not mi

For starters, when I was going vegan I was hit with this argument a lot: “but females cows constantly produce milk anyway, naturally.”

Stop that right there…. what?!

How does any mammal come about producing milk?

Through pregnancy. Cows are not some marvel of evolution that are exempt from this. So let’s be clear – cows only produce milk during and after pregnancy.

But what about the endless supply of milk in North America then?! The answer is as f’d up as you think it is. Cows are “forcibly impregnated” …every 9 months. Then specific measures are taken to stop the baby cow from drinking their mother’s milk (Which is “meant” for humans?)… *ahem* the veal industry.

Andy the cow was taken from his mother at birth. He would’ve be killed at 4 months old for veal if he wasn’t rescued by a sanctuary

All this, is aside from the fact that cows and all farm animals are kept in totally horrifying conditions. Lots of animal agricultural factories keep animals in a space not big enough for them to move. They are stuck like this their whole (very shortened) lives. Livestock cows are usually killed around 2-5 years old, because they’ve been worked so hard by the industry and their potential is worn out. Non-livestock cows on sanctuary grounds can live over 15 years old. I won’t go much further into this, and it’s pretty easy to google videos of inside factory farms, and see for yourself these horrifying practices. Or check out the movie “Earthlings” or “Dominion” if you wanna go really deep into it.

So even if you commit to exclusively getting your milk from a local, “happy”, “free-range” farm, these questionable practices still take place. Take the time to ask yourself if that’s something you are comfortable with contributing to (with your money.)

Dylan the cow, saved from the veal (dairy) industry, now over 15 years old. Living free at a sanctuary

Another small thought – have you ever thought about that fact that humans drink the breast milk of a cow, into their adulthood? Human breast milk is meant for a growing baby, and after the time of milk production in a person’s life, that baby is no longer in need of breast milk. Even if they were, why do humans consume the milk of a cow and not a pig, a giraffe, or a dog?

I feel like I could write about this topic endlessly. Cows are also totally sentient mammals. Have you seen those adorable videos of cows who live inside a house with their people? We know they’re adorable, and no one has a natural inclination to kill them. Cows feel, cry, and have a desire to live.

Everyone’s veganism journey and experience is different. Veganism is a wonderful lifestyle for a passionate environmentalist, or a major health enthusiast. But you could not give even give a crap about the environment or health, and still totally understand why this is a rad way to eat and live. Veganism at its core, I truly believe, is about ethics.

Article series written by Savannah

Sustainable Living

If you’ve been following along with this series, then you’ve read about the difference between compostable and biodegradable, and have learned to rethink the way we recycle. But what if we could reduce our waste altogether?

It’s all well and good to know how to dispose of our waste properly and divert it from landfills by recycling or composting. But a more long term solution would be to minimize our waste entirely. Reducing our waste is the most sustainable way to take care of our planet, as the abundance of waste, whether it is food waste, plastic, clothes, or just ‘stuff’ in general is really the problem.

To live sustainably, what needs to change is our lifestyle; the way we go through our day.

But that isn’t easy. In fact, it’s probably one of the most difficult things for people to do. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it! 

I recently interviewed an incredible woman, whom I will refer to as A. Patterson, who is dedicated to living as sustainably as she can. She educated me about Zero-Waste Living, and she gave me some information that I’m very excited to share with you.

I started with the basics and asked her what zero-waste living meant to her.

“To me, zero-waste living is about reducing as much waste from going to landfill as possible. A core belief of the lifestyle is that it’s a journey and not a destination.”

The less trash we send to landfills, the better. It’s not about being a perfectionist and having absolutely no waste, or getting overwhelmed by just how much waste we produce. It’s about transitioning to being more aware of what we’re throwing out, and finding solutions along the way.

We are all intelligent human beings who are capable of adapting to our changing environment. We live in a society that likes things to be done fast and efficiently (in terms of both time and money), with only the short-term gains in mind. We’ve become comfortable, and less accountable for our actions. It’s easy for us to fall into this mindset when our waste disappears after we throw it away. We can get caught in the trap of thinking that our actions have no consequences. In reality, a plastic bag we have used for maybe a few minutes to carry our groceries home has harmed or even killed a creature in the ocean, thousands of miles away.           

Patterson says that one of the biggest things she has learned in her transition to zero-waste is just “how many of the things we think just disappear when we throw them away actually make their way into our environment and oceans. As well that small actions can have huge consequences both positive and negative. A simple balloon, straw or plastic bag that is used for a matter of minutes can have consequences to wildlife on the other side of the world. As well that what we think is recycled in our local municipal system is actually fairly limited. It has definitely made me research more sustainable ways of dealing with items I no longer need.”  

I believe we’ve gotten to a point where we have a hard time distinguishing between what we want and what we need. We actually don’t need boxes of kleenex. It’s possible to clean your kitchen without using paper towels. You don’t need to buy a coffee in a disposable cup on your way to work. These are all things that we want to do; things that are easy and comfortable.

I’ll state it again because I think it’s such an important thing to remember: changing your habits to live sustainably is not easy. It’s not going to be easy. You’re going to want to buy that coffee and throw away the cup afterward without a second thought. You’re going to want to buy more things than you need. It might be a confusing transition.

I think that a lot of people expect green living to be easier than they thought, and give up when it gets challenging. I find myself falling into old habits more than I’d like – it happens to everyone. But once you build a new routine for yourself, it becomes as natural as breathing – and the air will be cleaner too.

To be conscious of it is the first step, and doing something about it is next.

I’ll end with some of Patterson’s tips and tricks to living more sustainably and producing less waste:

  • Carrying a reusable water bottle/coffee cup
  • Carrying a reusable shopping bag
  • Carrying a small kit of reusable cutlery, food storage and a cloth napkin 
  • Buying produce in cloth bags instead of plastic
  • Buying pantry items at a bulk food store or in recyclable/compostable packaging
  • Using your own containers when buying bulk
  • Buying personal care items (shampoo, soap, deodorant, etc) without packaging or in packaging that can be reused/recycled/composted or refilling them at Generation Green 😉
  • Donating unused items to places like Goodwill and ArtsJunction
  • Composting and recycling as much as possible!
  • Take special recycling items like old electronics to proper disposal locations;  BellMTS will take old phones for recycling and places like staples and hardware stores offer more types of recycling for thing like electronics, printer cartridges, batteries, light bulbs, etc.
  • Another big challenge is snacks and ordering in food (Skip the Dishes is always so tempting after a long day of work) and while it’s something I’m still working on my solution is to keep pantry staples for quick meals and easy snacks (bought with minimal packaging or at bulk stores) at home and with me to reduce the temptation. If I do order take-out I make sure to bring my own reusable containers
  • Some great resources are the “Journey to Zero-waste” Facebook groups. There’s a global one and ones broken down by region. Winnipeg has one too!

Stay tuned for articles about special recycling items, travelling sustainably and more!

Article written by Chantal Delaquis