This week’s forum was all about Sustainability and the environment. For our action item we asked attendees to read two articles on globalcitizen.org. The first was called 5 Cities Leading the World in Sustainability. From bike paths to wind farms and everything in between, this article outlined some admirable steps cities around the world have taken to become more sustainable. The second article was entitled Can Cities Withstand More Storms like Harvey and Hurricane Irma? This article explored the very real consequences of climate change on infrastructure, culture, and communities and challenged readers to consider how much longer we are willing to withstand these disasters before demanding a change.
We encourage you to give both articles a read!
This Week’s Conversation
This week 3 different student run sustainability focused organizations presented to the group. The talks were focused around local sustainability – how can we at Queen’s and in Canada be more environmentally focused?
The Tea Room: A Student Run Sustainable Business
The Tea Room’s Environmental Manager discussed the ins and outs of running a sustainable business, and how the Tea Room aims to make an impact. The main piece in her portfolio is education: The Tea Room attempts to educate the Queen’s Community and greater Kingston area on how to live more sustainably. They run various events throughout the year that focus on reducing your carbon footprint and living with consideration for the environment. The Tea Room also focuses on its’ environmental impact. It has zero consumer waste, all packaging is compostable, and it offsets its carbon footprint with a Teas for Trees campaign every year, where profits go towards planting trees in regions that need reforestation. We discussed the possibility for this business model to be adopted elsewhere – how can other small companies or large corporations adopt this model? We decided that the education part is huge – it makes a large impact on everyone in the community. Companies should strive to be more environmentally sustainable, because even without thinking consumers are living more sustainable lives. A student buying their daily coffee from the Tea Room vs. Starbucks is living with a smaller carbon footprint. Businesses like these provide an easier means for people in the community to live more sustainably. It was discussed that not all businesses want to adopt this model, especially as it may not always be financially feasible; However, the Tea Room has been financially feasible and has made a profit in recent years. This goes to show that it is possible!
CEEC: Commerce and Engineering Environmental Conference
A representative from CEEC came to discuss how members of the conference executive team attempt to bring sustainability into their lives, through summer internships, starting other initiatives on campus, and small changes that make a big impact. Specifically, we discussed one executive members internship that looked at food insecurity in some parts of rural Ontario, where the food produced on farms in the area is shipped as far as South America to be processed, and then shipped back to cities in Ontario to be consumed, while the rural community in which it is grown does not have access to it. The cost of food in these places is usually very high, and a solution looked at in the internship was a community grocery store. Local volunteers provide the service of grocery store employees in a community space, removing much of the cost and allowing the food to be sold at much lower prices. The main message was to consider the culture of the community in the area, and use that community to improve access to food. It is also important to consider where your food is coming from, and where it has been.
QBACC: Queen’s Backing Action for Climate Change
Representatives from Queen’s Backing Action on Climate Change discussed the importance of understanding Indigeneity and the Environment. It was discussed how climate change and government decisions affect the over 4.3% of Canada’s population that is Indigenous. The culture of Indigenous people in Canada is centered around the environment, in creation stories, ceremony, traditions, livelihood, housing and more. The colonial history of Canada and the colonialism that continues in Canada utilizes the environment as a tool of oppression against Indigenous people by utilizing traditional land without consent, dissipating resources of Indigenous communities, placing potentially toxic companies or infrastructure within Indigenous communities and failing to address pollutants in a timely fashion. The Case study of the Attawapiskat Water Crisis was discussed. The community has faced 5 states of emergency related to water access over the last 11 years. This is not the only community facing water issues in Canada. It is important to consider that not all people living in Canada have access to resources as we do, and the cultural implications of this. It is important to speak out to the government to change this! Changing these practices can help both the environment and the lives of people living in impacted areas. It is important to be aware of what environmental racism looks like and fight it.
This week, our takeaway message is that Canada is far from perfect when it comes to sustainability, but effective solutions can be found all around us! We as consumers, voters, and citizens have a strong voice in influencing the sustainability practices of corporations and governments alike. We therefore have a responsibility as both Canadian and Global citizens to use our harness our influence in favour of a more sustainable world. We also wanted to emphasize the importance of culture and history when discussing issues in sustainability and environment. A main talking point of this week’s forum was how environmental degradation impacts vulnerable populations such as Canada’s first nation’s communities, and how it is imperative that we remain cognisant of the needs of these populations when thinking of long term sustainability solutions.
We heard from some great clubs and organizations this forum! If you would like to get involved with The Tea Room, The Commerce and Engineering Environmental Conference, and/or Queen’s Backing Action on Climate Change be sure to reach out to them on Facebook and stay tuned for their upcoming events and initiatives.
FORUM: TUESDAYS @ 5:30 / JOHN ORR, JDUC
“Our goal with forum is to provide a safe, informative, judgement free space to discuss a variety of issues within development. We want everyone who comes to forum to feel comfortable expressing themselves in whatever way they see most fit. No question is too simple or too complex and you will never be judged for trying to grow in your understanding. While it is important to recognize that words carry with them a certain weight, it is also crucial that we remember everyone here is coming from vastly different backgrounds with varying degrees of development knowledge but that we all share a common desire to learn, grow, and make a difference.”