Your Destination for Green News & Innovation

Welcome to The Green Feed

Read more

Our Ozone Layer and The Montreal Protocol

By Eloise Callaghan

The largest hole ever recorded in our ozone layer was approximately 28.3 million square kilometres on September 3rd, 2000.[1] To try and visualize what that number means, Canada’s entire landmass is 9.98 million square kilometres, meaning the hole was almost three times the size of the entire landmass of Canada.

What does this hole mean for us?

To understand what this massive hole in our ozone layer means for us as humans we are going to start by going over the basics of the ozone layer. Ozone is a molecule that is made up of three oxygen atoms. These molecules make up the ozone layer which forms in the stratosphere level of our atmosphere. The ozone layer absorbs some of the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, which prevents it from reaching the earth’s surface. There are two major types of UV rays, UVB and UVA. UVB rays are the ones that cause sunburns and play the greatest role in causing skin cancer. UVA rays were historically thought of as less harmful because they did not cause burns, but we now know they are in fact more harmful than UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate deeper into our skin and play a role in skin cancer formation as well as causing premature skin ageing.

What is causing the hole?

There is no true “hole” in the ozone layer, rather it is thinning out to the point where there are not enough ozone molecules to effectively block the UV rays. This thinning is due to chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). A CFC is a molecule that contains the elements carbon, chlorine and fluorine. When CFCs are released in the atmosphere they drift up to the stratosphere and are broken up by the UV radiation: this releases chlorine atoms that are able to destroy the ozone molecules. CFCs are non-toxic, non-flammable and inexpensive so they have been a molecule commonly used in refrigeration, fire suppression, foam insulation and aerosol sprays.

What did we do about it?

A global agreement was set in a place called The Montreal Protocol. This called to phase out the production and consumption of ozone-deleting substances. The protocol was finalized in 1987 and signed by 197 countries, making it the first treaty in the history of the United Nations to achieve universal ratification.[2]

Unfortunately, the projected path of recovery has not gone as originally projected, and there have been setbacks along the way. Since the global ban, there has been a decrease in the number of CFCs in our atmosphere, but new studies are showing a significant slowdown in that decline. Studies are showing that the use of CFC-11 has been increasing significantly in recent years which caused the rate of decline of CFCs to slow down by about 50% after 2012. The emissions of CFC-11 have been traced back to eastern China and are equivalent to about 35 million tonnes of CO2 being emitted into our atmosphere every year. Since this discovery, the Chinese have started to clamp down and investigate these producers.

Even with the unexpected presence of CFC-11 in our atmosphere, our ozone layer is on its way to recovery. In September and October of 2019, the hole in our ozone layer was the smallest that had ever been recorded, at 10 million square kilometres.[3]

What The Montreal Protocol showed us

While the hole in the ozone layer does not lead to climate change, it is a stratospheric problem of global concern, and CFCs are greenhouse gasses (atmospheric build-up of greenhouse gases lead to climate change). The Montreal Protocol was the first time we came together globally to address a collective concern affecting the health of our earth. If it was not for The Montreal Protocol in the US alone, we would have seen an additional 280 million cases of skin cancer, 1.5 million skin cancer deaths, 45 million cataracts and the world would be at least 25 percent hotter.[4] The Montreal Protocol shows us that change is possible.

Sadly, The Montreal Protocol was so far the first and last time that we were able to come together in this way to address climate change. We have yet to meet that level of collaboration and agree upon significant enough actions to address the problem. That being said, let’s not make this the last major global action we took towards climate change. We must continue to educate ourselves and others and demand better from our governments and corporations.


[1] https://visibleearth.nasa.gov/images/54991/largest-ever-ozone-hole-over-antarctica#:~:text=A%20NASA%20instrument%20has%20detected,largest%20such%20area%20ever%20observed.

[2] https://www.epa.gov/ozone-layer-protection/international-actions-montreal-protocol-substances-deplete-ozone-layer

[3] https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2019/2019-ozone-hole-is-the-smallest-on-record-since-its-discovery

[4] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/ozone-depletion/

Biomimicry: Looking To Nature For Innovative Solutions To Our Human-Caused Problems.

By: Magnus de Pencier

By: Magnus de Pencier

Nature, and more importantly humans’ complex and disingenuous relationship with it, is a topic that is contentious, frightful, and relentless. The quote, “We envision a world in which people view nature not as a warehouse of goods but as a storehouse of knowledge and inspiration for sustainable solutions.” By Janine Benyus makes me wonder about the true solution to peaceful coexistence with our natural world. How can humans attempt to restore and replenish ecosystems and species that are on the verge of extinction? 

An Eco-Modernist, for example, would tell you that humans’ mastery over and separation from nature through relative and absolute decoupling is fundamental to sustainable longevity. This, along with intensified agriculture, urbanization, and investments in modern day technologies they consider to be the only way for humanity to flourish while preserving the biodiversity of the natural world. A Deep-Ecologist/Eco-Feminist on the other hand, would thoroughly disagree, stating that the earth, along with all of her resources, should not be interfered or tampered with by human activity, which is inherently destructive. Agriculture, they would argue, and the mechanized technology and pesticides that accompany it today, must be scaled back to local and traditional farming methods.

Then, there is Biomimicry: Technologically innovative practices that are inspired by nature. Biomimicry imitates nature by emulating its models, systems, and elements in order to effectively solve human-made problems. The Biomimicry Institute, founded in 2006 by Janine Benyus and Bryony Schwan, state that the goal of Biomimicry is to “create products, processes, and policies-new ways of living-that solve our greatest design challenges sustainably and in solidarity with all life on earth”. (Biomimicry Institute). Here is an example of one of the more famous Biomimicry examples in the real world, and the positive impact it can have on the environment and human race. 

Eiji Nakatsu and Japan’s Shinkansen Bullet-Train. 

The Shinkansen bullet-train, stretching from Shin-Osaka to the ward of Hakata, was built to carry passengers at exceptionally fast speeds (167 mph travelling over roughly 300 miles). However, there was one issue that had to be dealt with. The atmospheric pressure buildup from the train rushing through a tunnel, and out the other end, resulted in a deafening and unpleasant sound that exceeded the maximum decibel limit in the residential neighbourhoods in which it passed. 

Eiji Nakatsu, the head of the engineering team that was delegated to solve this problem, was inspired by the aerodynamic characteristics of a number of birds that ultimately made the new 500 Shinkansen series quieter and more efficient. The trains pantograph wing was modeled after the feathers of an Owl, its pantograph base after the body of an Adelie Penguin, and most consequently, the trains nose very much mimicked the bill of a Kingfisher. Here are a couple of tables from Eiji Nakatus’ lecture on biomimicry.

Table 1:

ProblemAnimalCharacteristicApplication
The pantograph, a piece that connects the train to its power source, vibrated and made a loud noise.OwlThe owl has a concave face capable of absorbing sound. Its body has ample down to absorb fluttering sounds. Tiny serrations on its primary feathers minimize the vortex generated by movement.The pantograph was reshaped like an owl’s wing, including small serrations, which resulted in no vibrations and a quieter impact for residents near the tracks.
The supporting frame for the pantograph had a high degree of wind resistance resulting in aerodynamic noise.PenguinThe body of the Adelie Penguin is shaped like a spindle which allows it to move effortlessly through water to catch fish.The pantograph’s supporting shaft was reshaped like a penguin’s body to lower its wind resistance.
When the train would enter a tunnel, a loud bang would occur due to the fixed air volume of the tunnel and the sudden increase in pressure from the entering train.KingfisherThe shape of the Kingfisher’s head and beak allow it to glide through the air and precisely dive into water to snag fish. It is the most efficient animal on earth to transition from low pressure (air) to high pressure (water).The nose of the Shinkansen train was reshaped in the form of the Kingfisher to eliminate the sudden pressure increase. No more bang.

(“Eiji Nakatsu: Lecture on Biomimicry as Applied to a Japanese Train.” It Is Alive in the Lab, labs.blogs.com/its_alive_in_the_lab/2012/04/biomimicry-japanese-train.html.)

Table 2:

DesignBeforeAfter
Pantograph WingWing_beforeWing_after
Pantograph BaseBase_beforeBase_after
Train NoseBeforeAfter

(“Eiji Nakatsu: Lecture on Biomimicry as Applied to a Japanese Train.” It Is Alive in the Lab, labs.blogs.com/its_alive_in_the_lab/2012/04/biomimicry-japanese-train.html.)

Through these new “design” amendments influenced by animals we encounter in our daily lives, not only was the new 500 Shinkansen series bullet-train under the legal decibel limit when passing through neighbourhoods, it was also 10% faster and used 15% less energy (Vox). In today’s world, we have reached an unprecedented level of high connectivity and uniformity. Through just a click of a button, technological information and material resources can flow between people, companies, and markets. Similarly, manufacturing plants, garment factories, and financial institutions no matter where they are located around the world primarily use the same ideas, designs, processes, and product cycles that allow for a just-in-time delivery and an instant gratification way of life. This level of high consistency and connectivity around the world means that, if we have learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, things (whether it be a infectious disease or an ideal) can rapidly transmit and disrupt every corner of the globe. Design systems need to be diversified and more resilient to the shocks and disturbances of our natural world. Learning from nature’s models and ecosystems, that have been continually adapting and surviving the earth’s elements for 3.8 billion years, may be a necessary and practical solution to the longevity of humans on earth. 

For other cool Biomimicry projects check out these links:

  1. Learning from Prairies how to grow food in Resilient ways
  2. Learning from mosquitos to create “a nicer needle”
  3. Learning from dolphins how to send signals underwater
  4. Learning from termites how to create sustainable buildings

Make the Most of Your CEEC 2020 Experience!

Blog Post By: Julian Burger

CEEC 2020 is 2 days away! With this in mind, we thought it would be the perfect time to share some tips on how to make the most of your experience. I attended CEEC in my first year at Queen’s and it  was one of the best experiences of my university career to date. The biggest take away for me was that what you put into the weekend is what you’ll get out. So whether your coming alone or with friends, from Queen’s or elsewhere in Canada, here are some tips for maximizing your CEEC experience!

1. Branch out!

It may sound cliche, but getting out of your comfort zone is what CEEC is all about. I know it’s reassuring to go talk to who you know when you get thrown into a room of unfamiliar faces. That being said, CEEC is the perfect opportunity to meet new like- minded people and make lasting connections. Try to break out of your shell as much as possible and introduce yourself to new people! I can guarantee that within five minutes of conversation you will have a lot more in common than you’d expect. 

2. Attend as many events as possible

Morning yoga after a big night out may seem like a stretch but trust me, getting the juices flowing right away is the ideal start to the day. CEEC is a pretty busy three days with constant events going on. Of course, if you have a test or a mandatory lab to attend, school comes first, but I can’t urge you enough to attend as much as possible. A huge part of CEEC is learning a wide variety of perspectives through an array of diverse lenses. Each speaker, workshop or even case brings new insights and may just be what inspires you to pursue a specific career! 

3. Bring your ideas to the table

While everyone at CEEC shares the same passion for sustainability, it is your background and ideas that set you apart! When watching a speaker, ask questions. When participating in a workshop, put forth your ideas. At dinner time, ask your table their opinion on a subject and present yours. You have a unique background whether it be your degree, your work/life experiences or even some cool vacation you went on (Insert exchange). Bring your insights and ideas to the table and you may even leave the weekend with some new ones to share with your friends. 

4. Talk to company reps

In the passed CEEC hasn’t traditionally been a full on recruiting conference. That being said, the conference  is an incredible opportunity to network with a plethora of cool sustainability focused companies and organizations! If you see a representative from a company you’re interested in, go and talk to them! It can seem daunting, but striking up a simple conversation, asking what they do and what got them interested in their job can lead to a future connection and even potential job opportunity. Many CEEC delegates and executive members have landed their jobs through connections at the conference so make the most out of it!

In Better News – The Happy Broadcast

Blog Post By: Jessica Oliver

Blog Post By: Jessica Oliver

The Earth is warming, arctic ice is melting, species are going extinct, fires are burning, and coral reefs are dying. These are just a few of the headlines we see daily. It’s daunting, I know. Sometimes I’m curious to read the whole story and other times I can’t seem to bring myself to, as it makes me feel helpless. It is important to understand the issues our world is facing and to take action, but it is also important to step back and recognize our successes.

As a start to the new year 2020, I want to recognize the positive impacts that occurred in 2019. I follow an Instagram account and blog called “the happy broadcast”, which reports on all the positive occurrences in the world. Here are a few examples from https://www.thehappybroadcast.com/

  1. “Italy to become first nation where students in every grade will be required to study climate change and sustainability.”
  2. “Costa Rica has doubled its tropical rainforests in just a few decades thanks to a continued environmental focus by policy makers.”
  3. “Scotland produced enough wind energy to power all its homes twice over in first half of 2019.”
  4. “Thailand supermarket says no to plastic packaging and wraps produce in banana leaves.”

In the midst of overwhelming headlines spurring anxious feelings, these positive reports serve as examples of the power of collaboration and demonstrate what we can achieve. Although recognizing our downfalls may motivate some, emphasizing our successes is equally as valuable to empower and encourage action. Let’s keep the ball rolling in 2020.

Traveling During the Climate Crisis: How to Be a More Eco-conscious Explorer

Blog post by: Maggie Tuer

Last January, I embarked on an eight-month adventure around Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Vietnam. The time that I spent exploring these incredible countries was without a doubt my favourite thing that I have done in my life thus far. Travelling to new places every week, living out of a rental car, and booking flights the day of was the exact kind of lifestyle that I had always craved.  Being able to finally set out on this adventure felt truly remarkable. However, being an environmental science student and someone who is passionate about sustainability in all aspects of my life, I could not rid myself of the ever-increasing guilt that my travels were having a negative impact on my carbon footprint and my overall contribution to the climate crisis.

         I would find myself looking around and be absolutely horrified by the waste and emissions associated with my explorations. As a result, I began to document a number of the issues that I found most problematic…

1. Airplane Waste

         On the majority of my flights, meals were served in disposable, plastic containers. Almost all of these meals were accompanied by disposable water bottles. A number of times when I informed the stewardess that I did not need a bottle of water, it was simply thrown out. On top of this, many airlines lacked adequate vegetarian options, with many failing to offer them on the menu at all.

2. Airplane Emissions

         Of course, one of the most detrimental environmental impacts of travelling is aviation emissions. One round trip flight from New York to Europe creates a warming effect equivalent of 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. To put this into context, the average American generates an average of 19 tons of carbon dioxide per year. I knew that this would be an issue going into my months of travels, but I have to say that I was disappointed by the number of airlines that failed to offer a carbon offset program.

3. Disposable Water Bottles

         This was particularly an issue in countries in Southeast Asia due to their lack of access to clean drinking water. Unfortunately, as a result of this situation, almost all water that was provided on tours, in hotels, Airbnb’s, or in restaurants and cafés, came in plastic disposable water bottles.

4. Tourist Impacts on Environment

         I spent the majority of my time away in New Zealand, as I was studying abroad there for almost 5 months. I genuinely have never seen such a pristine and beautiful place – after all, the country’s slogan is ‘100% Pure New Zealand’. Unfortunately, however, I noticed that the onslaught of tourists in National Parks and other conservation areas often led to a significant impact on the natural environment through traffic on hiking trails, wilderness campsites etc.

5. Inefficient Hotel Operations

         This is a critical issue no matter where you are in the world. Many hotels clean their linens every single day, have air conditioning in operation 24/7, and lack effective recycling programs. This was no different in the Southern Hemisphere. Particularly in Southeast Asia with its viciously humid climate, the air conditioning in hotels was constantly on full blast.

         It was certainly easy to feel disheartened by all of these issues, but rather than simply accept this as a sad reality, I tried my best to do everything I could to reduce my own personal impact as a traveller. Here are some of the ways I dealt with these obstacles…

  • Airplane Waste

         When it came to airplane food, I tried to reduce my waste by bringing snacks in my own re-usable containers. I also got in the habit of requesting vegetarian meals 24 hours in advance of the flight. Airlines such as Quantas are much better about using sustainable and re-usable packaging for hot meals, and I made sure to take this into account when booking flights.

  • Plane Emissions

         While aviation emissions are fairly hard to avoid when you need to get from point A to point B, there are a number of things to keep in mind in order to lessen your footprint. Planes expend the most fuel when taking off and landing, so the eco-friendliest decision is to take the most direct flight possible (even if it costs a little more). I also found that travelling by car is not only a sustainable decision but leads to some of the best adventures. Particularly in New Zealand, every glance out of your window provides an entirely new landscape, and any backroad or beach can easily become your home for the night or week.

  • Water Bottles

         This was probably the hardest wasteful obstacle to manage. While it went against every fibre in my being to purchase multiple disposable bottles a day, I quickly found that my guilt was leading me to be extremely dehydrated. It was difficult to find an alternative, sustainable solution. After returning home, however, I spoke with my peers about how they dealt with this issue while travelling in developing countries. I was told that purchasing a life straw or another form of effective water filter can be a great option. Using one of the products, you can simply fill your own reusable water bottle when there is access to running water and can say no to disposables.

  • Tourist Impacts

         In order to avoid being simply another adventurer making a mark on an already significantly altered landscape, I always opted to take the road less travelled. Staying clear of the most heavily utilized paths not only lessens your impact on the environment, but it also makes for a much more enjoyable hiking/trekking experience. At the same time however, I was conscious about always remaining on marked trails, and only staying the night in areas where camping was permitted. While exploring the backcountry can be thrilling, it is not acceptable to put your own adventure ahead of the conservation of the ecosystem that you find yourself in.  

  • Inefficient Hotel Operations

         This one is fairly easy to avoid if you are travelling on a budget. I stayed almost exclusively in hostels and Airbnbs as opposed to hotels, and while occasionally the heat became too much to bear, I predominantly opted for ‘fan only’ rooms to save energy. Additionally, I only did laundry when I felt it absolutely necessary – although I’m sure some of my travel companions would have preferred otherwise!

         I encourage absolutely everyone to get out there and explore everything our incredible planet has to offer. In doing so, however, always try and be as mindful and considerate as possible of the fragility and complexities of our natural world. Happy travels!!

5 Reasons Why You Should Apply to CEEC

1. Find motivation towards your passion points

The margin of having only a 2-degree leeway in global temperature increase is a terrifying statistic. Facing the extent of the reality that is the human and ecological crisis can be overwhelming and stress-inducive. It becomes easy to get stunned by the facts and lose track of knowing where to start. CEEC will address climate issues head on while exploring possible solutions to making change towards a sustainable economy.

2. Get first-hand experience from industry leaders in sustainable fields

At CEEC, keynote speakers and panellists are brought in from all across the world. We aim to bring a diverse group of industry professionals that offer unique approaches to solving the climate crisis. In the three days of CEEC, you will be exposed to industry professionals ranging from decision makers in leading sustainable firms to start-up companies exploring new pathways towards innovative solutions.

3. Make meaningful connections with like-minded people

CEEC is more than just a conference on sustainability and innovation. It is a forum for people who are driven to make long term change to connect and learn from each other. Our case competition and innovation competition provide the opportunity to work in teams while exploring solutions towards real time climate issues. By working together delegates are able to build strong connections and leave the conference knowing a new community of people who share the same values.

4. Opportunity to be a part of change

As a global society we are on the cusp of change. We can make drastic change now or face the consequences of 2 degree warming.  Here at CEEC we know that innovation, flow of capital and an open mind are imperative drivers in making the change we need. Our keynote speakers and panellist will engage in these topics, while the case and innovation challenge will allow you as a delegate to take a hands-on approach to work towards a revolution.  

5. Network with potential employers

As a collective our goal is to unite passionate scholars to the leaders of the emerging environmental industry. When you apply to CEEC, we send your resume directly to industry professionals participating in our conference. The CEEC tradeshow provides a unique opportunity for partners to showcase their business and for delegates to network with active recruiters. Key note speakers are assigned to delegate tables during meals, creating an open environment for intellectual conversation. 

A New Wave In Waste Free Consumption

“Zero waste could definitely be franchised; the trick is having smaller boutique stores pave the learning curve for big companies.” Remarked Dinsmore. Cassidy Dinsmore is the owner of the Daisy Market and Gather, two sustainable living stores in the Collingwood area. The Daisy Market is a lifestyle store and refillery for household products. Her goal is to provide customers with the products they need to reduce waste in their everyday lives. Gather follows similar values while creating a waste free grocery shopping experience of bulk goods and fresh produce.  

Dinsmore’s takes a holistic approach to sustainability and is guided by the principle that we must be able to maintain a way of life in both the short and long term without creating a negative impact on the planet. She then applies these values to consumerism when choosing vendors for her store. Dinsmore critiques each product on how it was made and how it will end up post consumption. However, she identifies two barriers while trying to reduce the waste of her store. The main barrier she faces when curating for the Daisy Market is that companies with similar values to hers fall short on their packaging. Producers are now starting to make the shift towards products that are free of chemicals and strive to be zero waste but then are ship their products wrapped in plastic. Dinsmore approaches this type of barrier with transparency in order to fuel conversation. When a mason jar pump arrives to her store in plastic packaging, she will put it on the floor that way with the hope that consumers will see what’s going on, acknowledge the problem then work towards finding a solution. Dinsmore’s second challenge is convincing people to move away from brands they are loyal to in order to try a new brand that is package free. This is where the learning curve comes in.  She claims that it’s about changing people’s ways and teaching people that zero waste and package free doesn’t mean no name. Switching to these brands means supporting something that is doing more than just fulfilling the need to maximize profit.

At the end of the day both Gather, and the Daisy Market are businesses and like everyone else Cassidy needs an income. So, I asked her about the financial aspects of choosing to run her stores the way she does. Unfortunately, the refillery aspect of the Daisy Markey does not pay the bills. Instead, it is her higher end skin care products that allow the refillery to work. However, this may be different if her store was in a large city rather than a small town. There is opportunity for a bigger margin as consumers are still looking for a cost-effective product. As a store owner it is less expensive for Cassidy to order a 20-litre container of shampoo rather than multiple 50 millilitre bottles. As a consumer, it is cheaper to buy a container once rather than paying for packaging every time their shampoo runs out. From which, you have probably deduced that shopping in a refillery style store both increases profit margin for a business owner and increases savings for the consumer. If this is the case, you may be wondering why larger firms are not jumping at the opportunity to shift towards waste free shopping. It could be the fact that such large-scale change may deter consumers out of convenience. Or possibly that higher end markets don’t bare the need to supply their target consumer with a cost-effective product. Either way, the Daisy Market and Gather are setting a great example for what sustainable shopping could look like in years to come if larger companies take the leap towards sustainability.

For more information on the Daisy Market and Gather check out their Instagram page @thedaisymarket and www.daisymarket.ca for more information. Their online store is in the works!

The Future of Data is Green!

Our future will be built on data. Of that there is no question. With this immutable destination in mind, it becomes incredibly important for us to realize the risks and benefits of our path we take as society progresses.

Data centres in the United States consume 2% of the electricity produced nation-wide. This seems shocking, yet it’s common knowledge that large information and technology corporations such as Google and Microsoft have massive warehouses full of computers optimized for data storage. Although it stands that these computers should be optimized for another factor: sustainability.

Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon have all pledged to run their data centres on sustainable energy, with Microsoft in fast pursuit. It’s this corporate responsibility and dedication to the environment which will set high industry standards that will only benefit our growing sustainable goals.

Click here to find out more!

Cape Town Is Running Out of Water!

Did you know the Cape Town is precariously close to running out of water! The second largest city in South Africa is experiencing the worst drought in recent decades. The city is working on mass water recycling programs to push back the current 100 days of water they have left.

Click here to find out more.

The Smartest Cities Are Green Cities

How do you convince 93% of your population to walk, bike, or take public transportation? You build a city that prioritizes energy conservation and clean energy generation. Check out this week’s Green Feed article to learn more about the innovative smart-city technologies that let the top green cities in the world lead the way to self sustaining urban life. Click here  to read more!