Cyber Week Mindfulness and Combatting Commercialism During the holidays

30 Best Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas - Easy DIY Wrapping Paper Ideas for Christmas


Santa Baby, I want a low waste Christmas, and really that’s not a lot.

In highschool one of my best teachers told me their family didn’t give gifts on Christmas. Initially, I thought this was robbing her kids of the holiday season like the grinch stealing every last ornament. But I have begun to see the point she was trying to make that one morning in my Global Development class.

           The truth is, Christmas has become so commodified that the holiday season is now the largest economic stimulus for many countries around the world. In 2013, the United States generated three trillion USD between American Thanksgiving and Christmas. This accounted for 19.2% of the retail industry’s total sales that year. This November, 58 billion USD was spent online in the U.S, which is up 32% since November 2019 and is projected to average at daily spending of 3 billion USD as the holiday season continues. Now imagine; the zip ties, the wrapping paper, the shipping boxes, the plastic containers, the protective Styrofoam, and the barrels of oil and gas that go into bringing trillions of dollars’ worth of presents down the chimneys and into the stockings across the U.S. alone. Next, picture those “gifts” piling up as plastics in landfills, filling our oceans with microfibers from textiles, stripping forests for cardboard boxes, and most of all as being 19.2% of the capital that each year perpetuates our broken system of endless consumption. Yikes… now look who’s the grinch.

           Lucky for us, we can choose to be a part of a movement that asks; How can we solve this? Rather than; How can we cover this up so we can make even more money? Your dollar has the power to be an economic vote towards better business practices and planet conscious consumption. Here’s how that vote can also put a smile on the faces of the ones you love this holiday season:

1. Gift an experience:

We’ve all been short of experiences this year, and it might seem out of reach to gift an experience when something like a music festival is and will be off the table for a while. So why not splurge on a night at a cool craft brewery, book a few nights at a nice AirBnB, have a staycation, or buy a subscription to a fun online class like masterclass or peloton. 


2. Gift gear and things that will get you outside:

Let’s be honest: the winter is brutal, especially in Kingston. But getting outside has never been so important when our whole lives seem to be online. Many of my friends tell me, “There’s never bad weather; there’s just the wrong gear.” So, help your friends and family get outside this holiday season. Buy them that four-season tent, a pair of snowshoes, or some sweet ski apparel that will help them look fresh on the slopes.


3. Buy what you need and consider your shipping method:

I get it. It’s easy to get trigger happy when you see 40% off at Aritzia, and as students, a lot of us really benefit from saving on items we otherwise couldn’t afford. So, what’s the happy medium? Be mindful before you hit checkout. Scan your shopping cart and ask, “Do I have another item of clothing that has the same functionality as this one? Does that difference in colour or hemline really outweigh the planetary costs of buying this new item?” If the product you have your eyes on makes it through the filter of impulse buying, next consider your shipping method. Free-two-day delivery is great for the customer, but the planet is the one that bears the burden of the cost. Consider the time frame you need your products to arrive in. Choosing that slower shipping option gives companies time to choose methods with lower carbon emissions. A study from MIT, “Environmental analysis of US Online Shopping,” explains that online shopping typically has lower carbon emissions than the traditional means of brick and mortar shopping. However, when two-day shipping is selected, this often means your product will be flown and then driven to you depending on where your order is coming from and the distance between you and the warehouse. If two-day shipping does, in fact, include air-travel, it will exponentially increase the carbon emissions tethered to the delivery of your parcel. 


4. Support Local, planet, and people-focused businesses:

It seems backward and wrong that stores like Walmart, Winners, and Costco are allowed to remain open during the second wave of lockdowns, but local apothecaries, candle shops, and Canadian owned boutiques are forced to flip their open signs over. For a list of 100 Canadian owned businesses with online shopping platforms, click the link here and put a smile on a local entrepreneur’s face when they see “new order” in their inbox.


5. Up-cycle and de-stigmatize thrifted gifts

Last but not least, explore a new meaning to vintage and buy your friend or loved one something unique! I know it might seem weird to gift something that had previously been loved by someone else. But our generation sources style from the past decades of the 70’s all the way through the early 2000s, so why not gift that authentically from the era it came from. The world of high-quality thrifting is on the rise, so find that cool piece of clothing or décor that screams the name of someone you love, give it a clean and wrap it nicely, then watch the joy on their face when the time comes to do the unwrapping. Check out these local and/or student-run thrift flip companies on Instagram for your next clothing oriented present:

@thunderwingvintage – Kingston

@limestonecitythrift – Kingston

@hippie_thrift – Kingston

@bugsvintage – Guelph

Africa and The Enviornment: Five Enviornmental Organizations Leading the Fight Against Climate Change


Westpoint, Monrovia, Liberia : travel

Pictured: West Point, a neighbourhood in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. As of 2017, 83.3% of the countries population lives off of $1.25 USD a day. Liberia is right beside the North Atlantic Ocean making it extremely susceptible to rising sea levels.

“Location will always have attached to it some degree of relative advantage or disadvantage”-Edward Soja.

This quote by legendary postmodern political geographer Edward Soja alludes to the concept of Spatial Justicea theory that analyzes the relationship between marginalization and geography and how the two are inextricably linked. Soja states that “locational discrimination created through the biases imposed on certain populations because of their geographical location is fundamental in the production of spatial injustice and the creation of lasting spatial structures through privilege and advantage.”

When it comes to the Climate Crisis imposed on all of humanity, it is without question that those who are most vulnerable to its impacts live in areas that are pre-disposed to poverty and are easily susceptible to both rising sea-levels, air and water pollution, and toxic chemicals released into the atmosphere. Despite being some of the most poverty-stricken and war-torn continents globally, Africa is joining the global fight against the Climate Crisis. It is up to us as collective individuals who have positively benefited from the concept of Spatial Justice to make sure these organizations receive the recognition and support they deserve. See Below:

1. African Sustainability Energy Association (AFSEA)

Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, AFSEA is one of the leading organizations in the nation’s Business/Sustainability sector. AFSEA claims they promote and educate the entire continent on all viable Rewnebale Energy Solutions, not just one in particular. These include Wind, Solar, Biomass, Biogas, Bio Fuels, Green Products, Energy Saving, Alternative Energy, Energy from Waste, and Fuel Cell Technologies. This multitude of sustainable solutions is the reason why AFSEA partners with various companies all over the world, “so they may prosper and gain the knowledge needed to expedite the implementation of renewable energy as a significant source of energy” (AFSEA). 

The organization’s team includes developers, contractors, consultants, suppliers, and research institutes both at local and governmental levels, all fighting toward the collective goal of building a greener planet through sustainable business practices.

To learn more about AFSEA and how to support the organization, click here:

2. African Youth Initiative On Climate Change (AYICC)

African youth against climate change, a new hub is born | World environmental education congress

Formed in 2006 in Nairobi, Kenya, AYICC came into fruition after a conference about ‘youth’ and the environmental changes they inevitably face. The group has over 20,000 members in over 45 African countries. It acts as a platform for African youth to share both their strategies and policy implementation ideas concerning climate change in the continent. The African Union Commission, African Climate Policy Centre, and the UN Economic Commission for Africa have all recognized AYICC’s commitment to their cause-related goals and the positive impact they can have on Africa and the world at large.

Although AYICC does not have an official website, attached is more information about the organization and a link to their Facebook page. Click Here:

3. Centre for Justice Governance and Environmental Action (CJGEA)

Based in Mombasa, Kenya, CJGEA is a self-described “human rights advocacy organization working for the realization of environmental and human rights of the economically marginalized communities around extractive industries and toxic sites.” Within poor neighbourhoods in Africa and around the World, it is common that residents are surrounded by industrial plants, toxic waste, or polluted areas that release chemicals that mix into local water streams and air. Through policy change and environmental governance, CJGEA demanded change from the Kenyan government to “develop advocacy strategies towards addressing the growing linkages between the environment and human rights.” It is a strong-willed organization seeking environmental and human justice for Kenya’s most marginalized residents and continues to demand change at both the local and governmental levels.

To learn more about CJGEA or to donate to the organization, click here:

4.  African Biodiversity Network (ABN)

This organization was founded in 1996 to combat the impending threat of biodiversity loss and other ecological, socio-economic challenges around the continent. ABN seeks to combat the spread of industrial development/agriculture by promoting the economic and environmental benefits of low-scale, traditional farming. As per their website, ABN focuses on “Indigenous knowledge, ecological agriculture and biodiversity related rights, policy and legislation.” The education, awareness and sustainable farming practices they encourage are critical in the face of Western farming techniques that “push for the privatization and industrialization of land, knowledge and biodiversity in the name of poverty alleviation.” ABN currently works with 36 partners in Benin, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia Zimbabwe. They have also internationally partnered with the Gaia Foundation in the United Kingdom. Agricultural communities in Africa and worldwide must be resilient, diverse, and, most importantly, absent from powerful external pressures that dictate how one should cultivate their own land.

To learn more about ABN, Click Here:

5. Ol Pejeta Conservancy

After Last Male's Death, Is the Northern White Rhino Doomed?

Although tailored more towards species and biodiversity conservation/protection, Ol Pejeta in Nanyuki, Kenya, ensures a correlation between wildlife protection and better education, infrastructure, and healthcare to the surrounding community of next-generation wildlife guardians. Ol Pejeta is a safe-haven for some of the world’s most endangered species, including Rhinosceries. It is home to the last two Northern White Rhinosceries on the planet, a species devasted by poaching and a global ivory market. It is one of Kenya’s’ leading research and innovation conservancies and an organization (as pictured above) that would literally die for the endangered animals they safeguard from poachers or other external threats 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Ol Pejeta also has a special place in my heart. In 2016, I was fortunate enough to travel with my family to help on the Anthropocene: The Human Epoch film shoot in Kenya, and meet the very last male Northern White Rhino named Sudan. It truly is an incredible organization with even better people.

To learn more, visit:


By Claire Floras


Since the mid-1850s carbon in the atmosphere has increased the global temperature by over 1°C (McGrath, 2020). Future projections predict an increase of 3-4°C by the end of the century if there is no effort to reduce global emissions (McGrath, 2020). These are both well-known statistics that have recently been reaching a larger global audience as the COVID-19 lockdowns highlighted significant—yet temporary—reductions in CO2 emissions. No previous global event has impacted greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as much as COVID-19, but the pandemic has also amplified and created other environmental concerns in a wide range of areas discussed below (McGrath, 2020).

1. Cleaner air – for the time being

As cities across the world locked down to combat the threat of Covid-19, there was a marked reduction in GHG emissions. Cities noted having cleaner air, cleaner public spaces, and a drop in noise pollution (Zambrano-Monserrate, Ruano, & Sanchez-Alcalde, 2020). This sudden shift in GHG emissions was important in demonstrating the need for future changes in city emission habits but did not produce any benefits in the long term. The reduction had no impact on GHGs that have previously been accumulating in the atmosphere so by the time the pandemic reached mid-June, GHG levels were already restored to just 5% below the previous year’s levels (Zambrano-Monserrate, Ruano, & Sanchez-Alcalde, 2020) (Gardiner, 2020). Shutting down industries helped to reduce our emissions but there can be no permanent change until we shift away from the industries upon which we currently depend (Gardiner, 2020).

2. Bad news for the renewable energy sector

The renewable energy sector has suffered many losses since the onset of the pandemic: capacity increase estimates for 2020 are projected to decrease by 4.9GW in wind energy and by 28% in solar energy (Eroğlu, 2020). Green energy has struggled with supply chain delays, an uncertain market, a drop in energy demand from lockdowns, and the risk of the inability to benefit from government incentives at the end of this year (Eroğlu, 2020). On the other hand, oil and gas companies have received benefits including tax breaks and breaks on royalties required to mine on public land (Gardiner, 2020). In the US, the administration has suspended enforcement of air and water pollution regulations and requirements for environmental review of projects such as mines, highways, and pipelines (Gardiner, 2020). The government has been able to push these changes forward with little resistance as public attention is focused on the COVID-19 outbreak (Gardiner, 2020). In Europe, the focus has also shifted to the pandemic and away from the environment (Gardiner, 2020). In China, despite a recent announcement regarding GHG emission goals, pollution levels rebounded rapidly after the lockdown (Gardiner, 2020). New coal-fired power plants were even approved as the government looked for ways to boost the economy (Gardiner, 2020).

3. Less road travel, air travel, and use of public transit

During lockdowns at the beginning of the pandemic, people travelled much less on roads and by air than in past years. Average road transport activity dropped by 50% in March and demand for jet fuel dropped by 65% compared to the 2019 demand (McGrath, 2020).  Now, as road and air travel are resuming and gradually increasing, there are new concerns over social distancing. Many people are avoiding the use of public transit because one is more likely to contract COVID-19 from a public space where contact tracing would be complicated (Gardiner, 2020). Going forward, the increase in vehicles on the road will correspondingly increase each country’s GHG emissions.

4. Growing deforestation concerns in the Amazon

64% more land was cleared in the Amazon in April 2020 than in April 2019 (Gardiner, 2020). This additional clearing comes even after 2019 was recorded globally as the biggest year for deforestation (Gardiner, 2020). Part of the issue arises from the government encouraging the land clearing and deliberately neglecting the environmental cost. Additionally, deforestation is known to be a cause of frequent wildfires in the area that have left many locals with respiratory issues (Gardiner, 2020). Now, those with prior respiratory concerns are even more at risk than previously with the threat of COVID-19.

5. Increased chlorination in wastewater

In China and other parts of the world, the threat of COVID-19 has led wastewater treatment plants to increase the strength of chlorination (Zambrano-Monserrate, Ruano, & Sanchez-Alcalde, 2020). This comes despite the fact that there is no evidence for a correlation between contracting COVID-19 and drinking water (Zambrano-Monserrate, Ruano, & Sanchez-Alcalde, 2020). Chlorine has a harmful impact on human health and the environment, and increased usage will cause the surrounding environment to deteriorate more rapidly than before.

6. PPE-related waste generation

Since the outset of the pandemic, there has been a significant increase in waste production. Single-use plastic bags became even more common as businesses and companies no longer allowed people to bring their own reusable bags over concerns of spreading the virus (Zambrano-Monserrate, Ruano, & Sanchez-Alcalde, 2020). Increased usage of disposable cups, more frequent ordering of food online, and growing household online shipping and delivery orders have also contributed to the rising quantity of waste that has been generated during the pandemic. In particular, ordering anything through online services requires plastic packaging for delivery. Medical waste has also increased. Wuhan hospitals typically generate a maximum of 50 tons of medical waste per day – the pandemic has increased this number to 240 metric tons (Zambrano-Monserrate, Ruano, & Sanchez-Alcalde, 2020). The US and other countries have also seen an increased amount of PPE-related waste mainly in the form of masks and gloves. Masks are typically made of polypropylene, which does not readily biodegrade (Eroğlu, 2020). Waste is proven to relate to environmental issues that include soil erosion, deforestation, water pollution, and air pollution (Zambrano-Monserrate, Ruano, & Sanchez-Alcalde, 2020).


7. Reduction in the global recycling program use

Another aspect of the waste generation problem is a reduction in recycling. Some US cities have suspended recycling programs in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. In Europe, many sustainable waste management policies have been restricted (Zambrano-Monserrate, Ruano, & Sanchez-Alcalde, 2020). In particular, Italy required infected residents to leave their waste unsorted. While these policies prioritize the importance of global health, they come at an environmental cost.

8.Green recovery potential

The current global priority is health. However, there is a future potential for a green recovery (McGrath, 2020). Allocating recovery funds toward jobs in the renewable energy sector will be necessary to combat climate change and work toward a world where it does not take a global pandemic to cause a reduction in air pollution.