A number of years ago I met Taina Uitto, a local Vancouver woman who at the time was blogging about living plastic free for one year. When I learned about her quest to go a year without plastic I initially thought it would be easy for me to cut back on plastic in my life and it was – for awhile. I carried around my metal straws and glass containers, refusing plastic bags at the grocery store and never purchasing bottled water. But over time it’s easy to return to old habits and convenience sometimes trumps being green when you’re in a hurry, away from the proper bins to dispose of things or limited in your choice of environmentally sustainable options for purchase.
As much as we’d all like to cut back even more than we have, the reality is, it’s difficult to give up some of the things that we’ve come to rely on for so long. So what I’ve found works best is to work on one thing at a time; develop one new good habit, eliminate one convenience that’s hard on the environment and be proud of small accomplishments. Maybe what we need to do more of is demand that things are made without plastic and create things not with the sole goal of making money but the goal of helping the environment and reducing what we use. I realize that there’s been a great deal of progress on this front but let’s continue to push for change.
I may have written about this before but I want to remind everyone to think of the big picture and know that even the small contributions you make to preserving the environment and its resources have tremendous potential for making a difference. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach to doing your part where the environment is concerned. No one’s perfect. Challenge yourself to small changes you can make in your consumerism. Afterall, if there’s no demand for environmentally unfriendly products, they will no longer be supplied.
Last summer my family and I were fortunate enough to have a chance to visit and tour the stellar sea lion open water research lab that has partnered UBC and the Vancouver Aquarium to study why the stellar sea lion populations in Alaska and the North Pacific are declining. Coincidentally, the sea lion population around our coast seems to be thriving. The facility is closed to the public and as a result not many people even know it’s there on a small arm of the Burrard Inlet.
It was a very rewarding experience to learn about these incredibly intelligent creatures and very inspiring to hear from the researchers and caregivers who do so much to protect them and to help preserve their existence for decades to come.
A significant reason for these mammals living at the research centre is for them to provide information to biologists about their habits, their diets, their abilities and especially their ability to dive and the amount of carbon dioxide they expel after dives. Learning about calories burned at different dive depths is a big part of the data they collect. The hope is to figure out if it’s the food they eat that is causing their decline and if they have changed their eating habits, what caused that change.
These wonderful creatures are big – no enormous – and they are loud and they smell – a lot – but they are magnificent creatures and they are capable of learning so much and teaching us so much in the process of working with those who are studying them.
When I was little I would hear them in the inlet and see them being transported up the Indian Arm as they excitedly anticipated their dives in the open water several kilometres from their home. It wasn’t until years later that I understood their purpose and the importance of those trips.
After watching what these researchers do and what they are trying to accomplish, it’s confirmed for me that this is exactly the kind of work I hope to do one day – working with animals and making an impact on their survival and their well being for the future. I have a huge appreciation for what they do and am very grateful that there are people in the world who want to dedicate their lives to jobs like this one.
A special thanks to Dr. Andrew Trites of the University of British Columbia’s marine mammal research unit for giving me the education of a lifetime! If you want to read more about this topic you can start here.
Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
– Mahatma Gandhi
I’ve always been a volunteer. It all started when I volunteered at Mossom Creek Hatchery. If you’ve seen my first film you’d know all about that. Sometimes we don’t realize how many organizations are run on a volunteer basis and how much society relies on dedicated groups of volunteers. It’s so important to give back though. I like to spend my time volunteering when I can and it’s usually related to the environment because that’s what my passion is. But there are so many different opportunities to volunteer your time for some amazing organizations and most of the time it doesn’t even feel like work. It’s a much better way to spend your free time and it’s often so rewarding that you want to contribute more.
One of the biggest benefits of volunteering is knowing that you’re doing your part in the community and you get to meet so many people who have the same interests as you that you realize how much people can accomplish in a group of inspired individuals. I know the summer is coming to an end and your time for volunteering is limited, especially if you’re a student, like I am, but plan ahead, find an organization that you want to be a part of, and commit an amount of time that works for you. Set a goal for yourself to find a way to give back and you’ll discover that you will get back as much as you give from volunteering.
One of the best ways to get outside at this time of the year is to start your own vegetable garden. It doesn’t have to take a lot of space in your yard but it will take some time and effort to look after it.
I’ve always loved farmers’ markets and the local food available at them so I thought I’d make a film on local eating (you can check it out here). My family has tried before to grow a garden in our yard without much success – mostly because our local wildlife likes our garden as much as we do. But after a lot of care and attention and a really good fence we are now enjoying daily salads and lots of great herbs and even some flowers that add colour to the whole space.
Gardens in general are a great way to bring your community together or in our case our family together, to eat healthy and to connect with nature. A good way to start is with a small herb garden. As for the smaller critters that also love to munch on greens there are lots of natural ways to keep these tiny eating machines away from your foliage.
If you live in an apartment you can grow something small on your patio or inside on a windowsill and then progress from there depending on your success. And did I mention all of it tastes so much better than what you find in the grocery stores. Now I understand why so many restaurants have rooftop gardens – to get the freshest ingredients as possible for their meals.
So next year, we hope to expand our garden, both in size and in the variety of things we plant. Every yard has its limits in what you can grow but every garden, in whatever space, also has it’s own possibilities. It’s up to you to find out what those possibilities are and start experimenting.
My friend Lavanya, from Singapore, recently wrote to me asking for answers to some questions. She’s promoting a blogging award called Liebster. Fellow bloggers can nominate each other and nominees can answer questions and then pay it forward by nominating others themselves. It’s kind of like an on-line chain letter that helps introduce new bloggers to others in the process. Thanks for the nomination Lavanya. Here goes…
Q: What gear do you normally use for photography?
A: My camera is a Nikon D40 and my filming is done with a Canon Vixia with a dedicated microphone. I’m hoping to get a zoom lens soon so I can stop borrowing my Mom’s all the time.
Q: What has been your favourite sighting (spotting) of nature?
A: My favourite sighting was of humpback whales in the Broken Islands on the west coast of B.C. on a kayaking trip. We were lucky enough to come across a male and female when they were mating and I was able to take pictures for nearly 30 minutes.
Q: Why do you love nature?
A: I love nature because I grew up with it and have lived in it all my life. It’s part of my history and my childhood and it brings me a lot of calm when my life gets really busy. It’s always waiting to be visited and there’s always something new to discover.
Q: Where would you want to go most in the world?
A: I would love to visit Australia, the Seychelles Islands and Alaska would probably be highest on my list.
Q: Why did you start blogging?
A: I started blogging because people were often asking about my work and I thought a blog was a great place to have all my information in one place. It’s also a great way to document the things you do and the people you meet. Being able to highlight the works of others is a real advantage as well. It’s just one more way of getting important messages out there to other people who share similar passions for helping the environment.
Since the Mossom Creek Hatchery was destroyed by fire in December, the community, businesses, schools and tons of individuals have stepped up to help the hatchery and outdoor education centre by donating their time and money to make the rebuild possible. My brother recently made headlines by creating a video on the history of the hatchery and its importance to the local ecosystem. His school raised over $800.00 in a fundraiser that partnered with COBS Bread Suterbrook to sell delicious scones. Check out the full story here. Way to go bro!
Mark your calendars for July 13th for an evening fundraiser gala for the hatchery. Stay tuned for details.
Well as usual, there’s been a big gap between blogs. My apologies. Homework has really taken over this year and when I do get any free time I like to get away with my family. Whenever we travel we usually get accommodations with a kitchen which means we have a number of containers that need to be recycled by the end of our visit. These days, more and more hotels have “green” programs that give you the option of declining housekeeping so that your towels aren’t whisked away after just one use and you keep the sheets on your bed for more than one night. It’s a great start but there’s a lot more that needs to be done. Hotels need to provide more recycling options for people to get rid of their waste. If you’re lucky, you might get a “blue bin” garbage type can in your room but I often wonder if they actually recycle the things people leave in there and if they only have recycling for one type of item e.g. glass or tin, and anything else you put in the bin actually winds up in the garbage.
This year when we travelled to a city we had been to before there were a lot more recycling bins and lots of different kinds of bins than I ever remember there being five years ago. And they weren’t just at the hotel we stayed in, they were in more public places than ever before. It was so exciting to know that change was happening. When we visited places and tourist sites without recycling we just carried around the things that could be recycled until we got back to our accommodations at the end of the day.
Whenever we leave a place that we have stayed we usually get follow-up emails asking us to rate our visit and there’s always a chance to make comments about what could be improved on. Our family always comments on the recycling, or maybe I should say, the lack of recycling and we make suggestions for what that could look like in the future and I would encourage you and your family to do the same.
We don’t really care if we get a $5.00 voucher from a hotel (which, by the way, we probably won’t use) as a reward for being “green”. We’re “green” because it’s the right thing to do and the least we can do while we’re away. But if that’s what it takes to get people to take action, great. Hopefully, one day, the “green” program will be routine and instead of asking visitors to call the front desk if they want to decline new linens every day, they’ll have to call, and be charged, to have their sheets cleaned after just one night.
Until then, you can choose a hotel that’s actually green certified from the environmentally friendly bath products it uses to key card energy control systems that monitor lights and temperature to low flow shower heads and toilets and know that you don’t have to leave your green habits at home.