Why Being WILD is Always Better…

June 5, 2016

Step3Today, June 5th 2016, marks this year’s World Environment Day (#WED2016), which is currently being hosted in the seventh largest African country, Angola. Differing from that of Earth Day, World Environment Day is specifically focused on calling attention to not only the environment, but mainly, to the issue of environmental sustainability. The theme and slogan of this year’s World Environment Day is “Go Wild for Life”, which emphasizes the importance of preserving the remaining endangered wildlife for future generations. WED2016 also strives to shed light on the tragic repercussions that result from illegal wildlife trading and wildlife crime.

While many of us are aware of the illegal trading of wildlife products, and the horrific abuses associated with such, I feel as though we often times push these issues towards the back of our mind because it is rather foreign to us, and these issues are something we don’t experience first hand, or hear covered in the news on a regular basis. Although we are all aware of the illegal trading of wildlife and wildlife products, I think we often times forget the bigger picture: the illegal wildlife trading market isn’t just an issue that effects the endangered wildlife left on our planet, but it is an important piece of a much larger, much more serious, puzzle. As the website for this year’s World Environment Day highlights:

The booming illegal trade in wildlife products is eroding Earth’s precious biodiversity, robbing us of our natural heritage and driving whole species to the brink of extinction. The killing and smuggling is also undermining economies and ecosystems, fuelling organized crime, and feeding corruption and insecurity across the globe“.

Asian Elephant          Tiger

If you’re still thinking “meh, this stuff isn’t really that important to someone like myself” consider this: how would you feel if you could no longer indulge in some of your favourite foods such as honey, wine, coffee, chocolate, and seafood (to name a few) because of environmental damage that prohibits the production of these goods? Then would this stuff become important to you?  NDTV Food wrote an eye-opening article detailing how along with the wildlife, those beloved foods just mentioned, are on a very similar path to extinction due to our own environmental negligence. I don’t know about you, but the thought of no more chocolate is enough to scare me straight!

Despite the designated theme of this year’s World Environment Day, today is not only about waging a war on poachers. It is also about the deforestation crisis, reducing the effects of climate change and global warming, preventing global food shortages, and everything else that falls under the large umbrella of environmental preservation and conservation.

So what can you do to become involved? The answer is LOTS. The three most important ways to get involved are listed below:

1) Spread the Word: The most important thing you can do, begins with spreading the word! Tell your friends, family, co-workers, and fellow classmates and help educate others on important environmental issues they may not know about. You can also dedicate some of your own time to reading up on other environmental issues you are more unfamiliar with. While we may not have the ability to influence government leaders to enforce tougher policies from an individual standpoint, by starting a conversation and becoming engaged in the discussion, you automatically help create and generate a heightened awareness of these issues. The larger the discussion, the more pressure placed on government officials to implement change, and invest in conservation efforts.

2) Get Involved Locally: Another great way to contribute to a greener environment is to get involved at the local level in your own community. For example, make it a point to become familiar with your neighbourhood’s Community Environment Days, to ensure safe recycling and disposal of household items, which helps reduce the amount of unnecessary waste that ends up in landfills. It also doesn’t hurt to stop by your nearest Community Centre, Constituency Office, or sign-up for the newsletter from your City Councillor to find out about the types of events your community is taking part in, and to learn more about how you can help out your local environment (i.e. garbage pick up days).

3) Volunteer: If you have some extra time to donate, volunteering is always an amazing way to give back and help out your community, plus there are a number of fantastic environmental-focused organizations  you can join forces with! One example of a great organization in my city is Evergreen. Evergreen is a Canadian charity centered upon restoring public spaces, and their efforts to do so not only help to strengthen local environments, but also help encourage and promote sustainability in the surrounding community.

On a daily basis, you can also adopt a number of habits to help transform your lifestyle into a more green one, and at the bottom of my Earth Day post, you can find a list of Sabatage tips I created to assist you with such. In honour of World Environment Day, I want to take a moment to further elaborate on one tip I mentioned in that post: Food Waste. Many of us are unaware or oblivious to how serious of an issue this really is, and how detrimental food waste is to environmental sustainability. Did you know nearly half of ALL food produced worldwide is wasted? How disturbing is that?! What many people forget to consider when throwing out food, is that they’re not only tossing away the food. Along with the food, they’re also tossing away all the resources that were used to produce the food, and transport the food to wherever they purchased it from. Here are a couple of my own tips, as well as some from the environmental legend we all love David Suzuki, to help cut back on food waste in your household.

Sabatage Tips to Eliminate Household Food Waste:

  • Save and ACTUALLY eat your leftovers!
  • Make sure you are properly storing all your food in airtight containers.
  • Be mindful of the foods you are throwing away on a regular basis, and modify your habits accordingly (i.e. start recording expiry dates, purchase smaller quantities of things you notice you are frequently tossing etc).
  • Buy only what you need (aka learn to shop smarter). This may seem like a simple concept, but you would be amazed by how many people do not shop smart. Buying exactly what you need, also helps to cut grocery bill costs. You can kill two birds with one stone by downloading apps, which help you plan out your weekly meals and grocery lists to help avoid this exact issue! (Check out MealBoard Meal and Grocery Planner App).

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I hope everyone is having a beautiful World Environment Day today, and remember to appreciate and respect the environment not only today, but always!

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Earth Day 2016: #ParisAgreement

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April 22, 2016

Today marks a very important day for two reasons. One it is Earth Day, the most important day of the year for environmentalists and the environmental movement as a whole. Two, the signing of the Paris Agreement (which may very well be one of the most significant global accords of our generation) is taking place today, making this years Earth Day one of the most important in history.

I am filled with excitement knowing that today, leaders from 160 countries around the world will be gathering at the United Nations in New York to officially sign the Agreement. It is predicted that this will be the largest same-day signing in the history of international accords, which I find very fascinating. Furthermore, this accord is unique in the sense that it is essentially the first of its kind to take action in uniting such a large number of countries.

The Paris Agreement not only requires these countries to undertake commitments to action (aka ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’) regarding global emissions. But further, it necessitates countries to review and re-evaluate these pledges every five years, beginning with “global stocktaking” in the year 2023. Another beneficial clause worked into this agreement is that countries are actually unable to lower their targets, and instead, they are pressured to elevate their commitment with each year that passes.

Although the first adoption of this was in December of last year, today marks the actual singing, thus resulting in the countries officially accepting the agreement. After the agreement is signed and accepted, the final step is uniting at the national level by way of executive and/or legislative action. As the UN Foundation Blog notes:

For the agreement to “enter into force,” it must be accepted by at least 55 countries that together produce 55% of the world’s emissions. China and the United States alone, who recently announced that they would join the agreement, produce nearly 40% of the world’s emissions between them. Then comes implementation, when countries “put their money where their mouths are” and act upon the specific national commitments they’ve made.

You can learn more and follow the conversation by using the hashtag #ParisAgreement. Another great way to stay informed today is to check out the live UN stream of the signing, which is what I’ll be doing!

It was instilled upon me from a young age that Earth Day was a very important day. I have flashbacks to an elementary school assembly where teachers spoke about the importance of recycling and the conservation of energy, which was followed by us going outside and spending the rest of the afternoon picking up garbage. I know that this stuff is still taught to children in school, but I can’t help feel as though it bears less weight in todays fast-paced, modern, technology-based society. We are too caught up in our individualistic habits, that unfortunately, we too often take this beautiful planet for granted. We are all aware of this sad reality. The fact that we need this sort of an agreement, and the urgency associated with such, really does speak for itself.

I urge you all to please use today as a reminder to take a step back from your busy schedule, and devote some time to admiring and appreciating the earth. There are many activities we do every single day that are negatively affecting the planet on a much larger scale. Our actions shouldn’t just matter for the purpose of today, they should matter everyday. Today should be a reminder that we all, myself included, can and should be incorporating and practicing green initiatives more frequently in our everyday lives.

                Sabatage Earth Day Tips:                                               CgOlFRDUMAEKajG

* Reduce your food waste. This is number one on my list, and a personal priority at all times! Approximately 35% of food goes uneaten in developed countries, which deeply disturbs me. Having worked in the restaurant industry, I witnessed way too much food being wasted and it always struck a nerve. In Toronto, we have an amazing organization called Second Harvest, which picks up donated or surplus food which would otherwise go to waste, and delivers the food to agencies around Toronto. Dedicate some time to tracking down something similar in your community!

*Stop using plastic water bottles. Swap your plastic water bottles out for a reusable one.

*Bring reusable bags to the grocery store. You can purchase reusable bags at nearly every supermarket, and this helps you save money as well.

*Buy a reusable lunchbox and/or reusable coffee mug for work. Bringing your lunch in reusable containers, and using washable vs. plastic utensils also helps cut down on waste.

*Eat less meat. One vegan meal saves more water than skipping 176 showers, as we all know the meat industry consumes a large amount of energy. If you are unable to sacrifice meat entirely, challenge yourself to cutting meat out of your diet once a week (i.e. ‘Meatless Mondays’).

*Buy local grown food. This cuts down pollution created by transportation.

*Avoid purchasing pre-packaged food. A lot of the packaging and plastic wrap on food and groceries is unnecessary and ends up in the garbage. Try not to be persuaded by attractive packing.

*Walk, bike, or take the public transit to work.  This one is pretty obvious, but a lot of us are guilty of not practicing this often enough.

*Reduce the number of one-time-use items you buy.  I.e. paper towels. Keep several rags or cloths handy as an alternative.

*Unplug!  Even though you may not be using your phone charger to charge your phone, if it remains plugged into the wall, it is still using energy. Try to be mindful and make it a habit to unplug the cords you aren’t using.

*Apple x Earth Day.  Apple’s ‘Apps for Earth’ section has a number of apps that have been overhauled in support of Earth Day. This is a partnership with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and all proceeds go directly to supporting environmental conservation.

 

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POST UPDATE:

Check out the links below for two great speeches from the Paris Agreement Opening Speeches! Theres a ton of other great videos from todays ceremony which can also be found on www.webtv.un.org.

http://webtv.un.org/topics-issues/global-issues/climate-change/watch/leonardo-dicaprio-un-messenger-of-peace-high-level-signature-ceremony-for-the-paris-agreement-opening-session/4857658536001

http://webtv.un.org/topics-issues/global-issues/climate-change/watch/getrude-clement-tanzania-youth-representative-high-level-signature-ceremony-for-the-paris-agreement-opening-session/4857502757001