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.

Four Hiking Trails You Need To Visit Right Now:

Four Hiking Trails You Need To Visit Right Now:

 By Magnus de Pencier

As the leaves fall and weather turns brisk, there is no better time to get out with family and friends alike and explore the beautiful trails in the Kingston Region! (Abiding by social distancing guidelines, of course).



Trail #1: Lemoine Point

Roughly a 21-minute drive from Kingston City Hall, this 4.7-kilometre trail is usually home to a plethora of dog walkers, runners, and families. Over the course of the trail, one will find themselves walking through beautiful cedar forests (pictured above), alongside the waterfront, and even a few beaches with large flat pieces of limestone that you can sit on if you wish to take a break. You’ll also find several picnic tables right down by the water (these must be booked on the CRCA website:, and public washrooms on both the north and south end of the trail. In terms of wildlife, one can expect to see Garder Snakes, Blue Jays, Bumblebees, and Chipmunks, to name a few!


Trail #2: Nicholson’s Point Woods

This trail, though a 26-minute commute from Downtown Kingston, is worth it. It’s 2.2 kilometres is jam-packed with old relics such as abandoned cars, freshwater springs on the north side of the loop, mossy limestone, and so much more. The trail is very well kept and maintained with gravel to ensure accessibility of all hiker skill level, except a little hairy at times for kids in strollers. Lighthouse Park, an access point on the trail, offers a great view of Amherst Island across the water. Overall this wheel-shaped loop is worth the visit. 


Trail #3: Frontenac Park

The Tetsmine Lake Loop in Frontenac Provincial Park is an hour outside of Kingston, 11.1 Kilometers in length, and so far the most challenging yet rewarding trail on this list. Frontenac Park is regarded as one of the top provincial parks in the Kingston region. Its well-groomed trails, excellent camping spots, and fishing are top-notch. Along the Tetsmine Lake Loop, one can expect to see beaver ponds and long and winding ravines, and incredible lake views. On the trail, one can take a detour to Moulton Lake, a beautiful lake with high hills on both of its sides. One can also see signs representing the old history of Crab Lake Mine, an old minefield! Overall, although this trail is longer in length and certainly more challenging than the previous, from ravines to private campsite beaches, this trail has a lot to offer


Medium Trail #4: Gould Lake

This trail is roughly 40 minutes outside of downtown Kingston and 9.3 kilometres in length. It is located within the Rideau Approach+Mine Loop Conservation area. In the warmer weather, one can rent canoes and visit a swimming beach and picnic areas. In the winter, it offers an incredible network of trails, known for the scenic beauty. One of the trail highlights is the open pit from the former Mica Mines, which still has Mica chips all over the surface ground. Although this is a beautiful trail year-round, I especially recommend it in the warmer weather. 


To find out more about the best hiking in the Kingston region, I highly recommend checking out this website!

Next Generation Climate Activists You Need To Know About

By Magnus de Pencier

Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old from Sweden, has made headlines around the world in recent years as a tenacious, unapologetic, and strong-willed climate crisis and environmental activist. Her most notable movements include the School Strike for Climate (Skolstrejk för klimatet, Fridays for Future), in which over 13 million students from over 7,500 cities around the world march out of school in protest against the climate crisis and government failure to recognize the matter. She has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the Right Livelihood Award, the Glamour Award for the Revolutionary, and the Ambassador of Conscience Award, to name a few. Most recently, Thunberg was named the recipient of the Nordic Council Environment Prize, to which she publicly declined the award and reallocated the $1 million pound prize to help support climate groups instead. When asked why Thunberg stated that “The climate doesn’t need awards”.

Greta Thunberg is a figure of hope and trailblazer of change for environmental activists and humanity in general. But she’s not the only one fighting the good fight. Here are five leading next-generation Climate Activists that you need to know:

  1. Alexandria Villasenor, 15 Years Old

Alexandria Villasenor is 15 years old from New York City. She is the Co-Founder of the US Youth Climate Strike and Founder of Earth Uprising. Earth Uprising is a global initiative that aims to “empower activists to take action against issues that affect their communities by providing resources to amplify and scale their actions”. They do this in five critical ways: Local government lobbying, community presentations/education, advocating for climate education in the American school system, direct actions and protests, and actively and continually participating in Fridays for Future and the Global Climate Strike. The most unique aspect however about Earth Uprising, is their new initiative called “My Initiative” which encourages and supports youth community leaders to fight the climate crisis and take action in however way they want.

Villasenor credits her passion for climate activism to the California Wildfires in 2018, which opened her eyes to the real-life consequences of climate change. Greta Thunberg, and in particular her infamous COP24 speech addressing world leaders on their failure to address the climate crisis, Villasenor also credits as a massive influence.

  1. Isra Hirsi, 16 Years Old

Isra Hirsi is from Minneapolis, Minnesota and is the daughter of Minnestoa Congresswomen Ilhan Omar. Although Hirsi originally focused and centred around issues of racial injustice, she now focuses on environmental racism and how climate change disproportionally effects people around the world, specifically Black and Brown communities. Hirsi is also a co-founder of the US. Youth Climate Strike and is a major backer of climate policy initiatives like the Green New Deal. Hirsi’s mother was the first Somali-American legislator in 2017, and the first Somali American in Congress in 2019-both incredible milestones. Hirsi was last years recipient of the annual Brower Youth Awards, given to six young environmentalists under the age of 23. Check out this video to learn more about this trailblazing young activist

  1. Xiye Bastida, 17 Years Old

Xiye Bastida was forced to evacuate her hometown San Pedro Tultepec, Mexico due to floods and relocate to New York City. These real-life effects of the climate crisis forced her to grapple with humanity’s unnatural and exploitative relationship with the natural world. Bastida has embraced the Otomi Indigenous perspective of humans’ respectful and reciprocal relationship to the planet, stating that she believes “if you take care of the earth, it will take care of you”. Bastida is a leader in the Fridays for Future movement, and single handly organized a strike at her local school in Manhattan, mobilzing more than 600 kids to walk out, protest, and join the Global Crimate Strike. Bastida is a member of the administration committee of the Peoples Climate Movement, the Sunrise Movement, and the Extinction Rebellion. All organizations committed to fighting climate injustice.

“We don’t want people to suffer from the climate crisis to realize we are in a crisis,”- Xiye Bastida. 

  1. Vic Barret, 20 Years Old. 

After the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, Barret’s home in White Plains, New York, not only lost power for a considerable amount of time, but he was unable to attend school. Barret along with 21 other plaintiffs in the case labelled  Juliana vs. the United States, sued the government for its continuing support in an energy system that contributes to excessive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Barret is also a member of The Alliance For Climate Education, and also attend the COP 21 Conference on Climate Change in Paris in 2015.

  1. Katie Elder, 19 Years Old. 

Originally from Wisconsin, Katie Elder is so committed to fighting the Climate Crisis that she is taking a two-year gap before starting college, solely to protest, raise awareness, and lobby against the government for radical environmental reform and divestment from fossil fuels. Elder is the executive director of the Future Coalition and also created the U.S Youth Climate Strike Coalition, a movement that is ongoing and a force to be reckoned with.

“I think it’s really exciting. Young people are always the catalyst for change when it comes to social movements. When young people get involved, something changes and something happens”-Katie Elder on the current Climate Crisis.


Although our collective future is riddled with looming uncertainty and despair, these young, brave individuals and countless others, are leading the charge to make the world truly a better place.

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.





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

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:

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,

Table 2:

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,

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

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

  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!!