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The Impact of Food Waste on the Environment
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The Impact of Food Waste on the Environment

This blog was written by Nature Canada guest blogger Dylan Moskowitz. On this World Environment Day, we are discussing sustainability, food waste in Canada, and the impact that is has on our environment. Unfortunately, sustainability isn’t so easily defined when it comes to its relationship with the global environment, as we have the tendency to understand sustainability only on a superficial level. Nonetheless, to influence change and to protect wildlife and landscapes across Canada, we must ask ourselves: what is sustainability to each of us, and how does the term influence what we do in our daily lives? Today, we are focusing our what can be done by each of us, starting with the food we buy, but don't eat.


According to a recent study conducted by the Canadian Broadcasting Company, the average Canadian wastes over 170 kilograms of food per year. This staggering statistic indicates that food waste is highly correlated to over-consumption and financial mismanagement. Besides financial toll, the amount of food waste in Canada also shows that there is an opportunity for food to be diverted from landfills, and put to a better use from the get-go.  FoodBanks of Canada reported that 13% of Canadians do not have enough access to quality food. The high amount of food insecurity in Canada further suggests that if fellow Canadians bought less food, cooked meals ahead of time, or even composted food themselves, the problems of increasing food waste and food insecurity would be greatly mitigated. Beyond personal satisfaction, reducing food waste has obvious environmental benefits. The environmental impact of food waste stems from the greenhouse gases that result from its preparation and decomposition. Methane from food waste rotting in landfills is 25 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. It is not only the methane from food waste that must be considered, but also the methane emitted and resources used throughout the entire period of growing, processing and transporting food. The current Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has pledged to cut methane emissions from 40-45% by the year 2025. This pledge by the Trudeau administration further implies that Canada is aiming to become a major contender on how we perceive, treat, and use food waste to create a more effective and efficient society. Apart from introducing a “new Canadian society,” the political pledges made by the current Canadian administration demonstrates that reducing methane emissions provides incentives for both companies and individuals for the health of our entire societies.
By diminishing our individual food waste we can begin the journey to reduce the impact of food waste on wildlife and nature in Canada, and move forward to make Canada one of the primary influences of sustainability
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Mentorship: A Conversation with Women for Nature’s Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese
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Mentorship: A Conversation with Women for Nature’s Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese

[caption id="attachment_35323" align="alignleft" width="150"] Marsha Mann, Women for Nature[/caption] [caption id="attachment_35323" align="alignright" width="150"] Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese, Women for Nature[/caption] Featuring Women for Nature member's Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese. Written by fellow Women for Nature member Marsha Mann.  M: When were you a mentor? S: My first, and only experience as a mentor was to a top 20 under 20 women in Canada. She had wanted a mentor who was political and environmental. Since David Suzuki’s daughter was unavailable, the organization approached me, and of course I agreed. I had been a Green Party candidate both federally and provincially, and I was also an environmentalist. I believe in democracy, and the importance of having a choice on the ballot, and to step up when needed to make things happen. My participation brought about several changes, such as candidates having their parties along with their names listed on the ballot. I practice environmentalism every day to reduce waste, and be considerate of the wildlife around me. I took every opportunity to educate my own children about the importance of our environment and worked toward reducing my family’s carbon footprint. various NatureHood ActivitiesI met my mentee when she was just graduating from high school. She was academically accomplished and a school leader. She was confident, had ambitious goals, and she was going to change the world. I thought this arrangement would last one year during her first year at university, but it lasted for 5 until she had got her Masters from Oxford University. It was satisfying for me to see someone I had been there for doing well and making changes in world. If I can do it again and make a difference I would. The world is changing rapidly, climate change is already happening exponentially and we need strong leaders who can help our planet. So, when Jodi asked me to consider being a mentor for Women for Nature, I said sure. M: How did you arrange your meetings with your mentee? S: I made myself available by any form of communication including phone, text, email, and, of course, in person. I have not yet been matched with the Women for Nature mentor program, but I am looking forward to it in the next round. M: How is mentoring different than say, coaching or managing? S: Managing is more about expectations, especially work, but mentoring is about caring about the whole person. It is more like nurturing. Whatever she was facing, or needed I was there to support her. Her family gave me a plant to thank me for being the soil that made her grow. M: What inspired you to become involved with Women for Nature? S: I was one of the first women who donated to Nature Canada in a significant way for over 30 years. Jodi said she wanted to engage and involve more women like me who are committed to nature, which became known as "Women for Nature". I think it is important for women to choose their own causes, and be leaders in those causes. For me, it is the preservation of our wilderness. M: Who inspired you? S: My father was always very supportive of whatever initiative I wanted to take. He had an adventurous spirit, and was always willing to try something new. He wasn’t afraid. I later appreciated how big of a person he was since he had four daughters and no sons at a time when sons were preferred. He never made us feel we were second-rate. He encouraged all of us to go to university at a time when many women weren’t. My father made me feel I wasn’t handicapped being a woman. My mother was more traditional, and supportive in other ways, but I think my father was the bigger influence in my life. He was an original thinker. He got me thinking how important it is to get women in a leadership position to implement gender equality, and be environmentalists if there is going to be a cultural shift. M: Sharolyn is still an environmentalist. Her company, SMV Energy Solutions offers services in cap and trade, and provides simple smart solutions to reduce energy consumption which positively impact the triple bottom line. It was a pleasure to spend time with Sharolyn and getting to know her.

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7 Ways to Enjoy an Environmentally Friendly Fall
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7 Ways to Enjoy an Environmentally Friendly Fall

[caption id="attachment_34904" align="alignleft" width="150"]mbriere Michelle Briere, Guest Blogger[/caption] This blog was written by guest blogger Michelle Briere. As the weather cools and the seasons change, it is time to think about how you can make better choices for the environment this fall!

1. Shop for local foods

My favorite part of autumn is absolutely the harvest. From pumpkins, to onions, to potatoes, most of us here in Canada have a variety of delicious vegetables come into season during the fall.vegetables-752153_1920 A tip to acquire the most delicious and fresh vegetables around is to buy locally-grown produce. Not only does it help support the local economy, but it reduces the environmental impact associated with long-distance food transportation. Head to your local farmer’s market, and the next time you’re out in the country, keep your eye out for food stands where farmers often sell their freshly-picked produce. Another fun way to enjoy local produce is to pick it yourself! Grab some friends, family or your significant other and make a date of picking at a local apple orchard.

2. Indulge in sustainable fall fashion

When the cold weather rolls around, some of us long to revamp our style and revel in the cozy big sweaters and earthy palette that fall fashion brings. Thankfully, there are several ways the environmentally-conscious fashionista can indulge during the fall. To reduce waste, avoid fast fashion, and even save a few bucks, visit thrift stores in your area. You may have to dig around a bit, but with some patience you’re sure to find some gems hidden within the racks. If you have no luck at the thrift stores, seek out local and environmentally-conscious companies to shop from. My personal favorite eco-friendly Canadian brand is Matt & Nat, a Montréal-based company which uses recycled water bottles to make a wide variety of sophisticated purses, briefcases, backpacks, wallets and shoes.

3. Start next year’s vegetable garden early

Growing your own food is a fun and rewarding way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with large-scale food production. Whether you already have a vegetable garden or not, you can start parts of next year’s garden this fall! Like tulips, certain vegetables are best planted before the winter. Depending on where you live, this usually includes garlic, onions, and shallots. 6-8 weeks before the expected last frost, start a new garden plot or prep your existing one. Remove any remaining plant material (excluding perennials), lightly fertilize and work your soil, plant your garlic, onion and shallots accordingly, and cover lightly or heavily with mulch (depending on how cold your winters are). Planting these foods in the fall will produce a bigger crop with fuller flavour, ready to be enjoyed late summer the following year.

4. Have a plant-based Thanksgiving

Animal agriculture is one of the top sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and consumes extremely large volumes of water. One fun and festive way to reduce your environmental impact this fall is by hosting an entirely plant-based Thanksgiving! As recognition of the environmental, health and animal welfare benefits of a plant-based diet grows, it’s easier than ever to find tasty alternatives to traditional meat and dairy-based recipes. There are several dishes you can make that will keep your Thanksgiving traditions alive, while keeping your environmental impact low; for example, stuff a butternut squash with your go-to stuffing recipe, and replace butter in your apple pie recipe with margarine. Find yourself short of ideas? Check out some plant-based cookbooks or online food blogs (my favorites are here and here). [one_half] [caption id="attachment_34619" align="alignnone" width="300"]Photo by Michelle Briere Photo by Michelle Briere[/caption] [/one_half] [one_half_last] [caption id="attachment_34620" align="alignnone" width="300"]Photo by Michelle Briere Photo by Michelle Briere[/caption] [/one_half_last] Recipes for plant-based versions of classic fall favourites are widely available online. Left: 3-bean chilli served in roasted pumpkin bowls. Right: dairy-free pumpkin spice “cheesecake”.

5. Help out the feathered fall migrants and winter residents

Fall and winter are challenging seasons for our feathered friends. Many bird species make the long, difficult journey south during the fall, while others stay and endure Canada’s sub-zero winter temperatures. Food scarcity is often a major challenge for both parties. The best thing you can do to help is avoid pruning your fruiting, flower and seed-bearing plants until the early spring. These plants provide an excellent food source for migrants to refuel on their way south, and help sustain the species who stick around for the winter. [caption id="attachment_34621" align="alignleft" width="300"]Photo by Michelle Briere Photo by Michelle Briere[/caption] Fall is also great time to clean any bird feeders, bird baths and birdhouses you may have; this can help prevent the spread of disease. Birds benefit year-round from fruiting trees. Avoid trimming these plants in your yard until the spring to help keep more food sources available for birds.

6. Go green for Halloween

Whether you’ll be going door-to-door, giving out candy, or heading to a costume party, you can be festive this Halloween while staying environmentally-conscious. Dressing up? Dig out an old costume you wore years ago, swap with a friend, or head to a thrift store. Alternatively, if you’re the creative type, make a DIY masterpiece using things you already have around the house. Decorating? Pinterest is your best friend. You can find countless DIY Halloween decoration ideas that don’t require you to buy anything new, or that are free of plastic and other environmentally-harmful products. Giving out candy? Source out ones that uses the least amount of packaging (while remaining safe for kids, of course).

7. Try keeping a cooler house

This is an easy tip to reduce your impact, but it may take a little adjustment time. If you own a home or rent a place where you can control the thermostat, try keeping the temperature a bit cooler than you normally do during the fall and winter months. Break out your cozy sweaters, bundle up in some blankets, and enjoy hot cups of tea. After a few days, you’ll adjust to having your place a few degrees cooler. Plus, you’ll save a few bucks on your energy bill! What are some things you do to enjoy an environmentally-friendly fall? Leave a comment below!
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Canadians have high expectations for assessment law reform, environmental experts say
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Canadians have high expectations for assessment law reform, environmental experts say

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Ottawa, ON (March 21, 2017) – The report that the Expert Panel reviewing Canada’s environmental assessment law will release next week is critical to restoring public trust in how natural resources are developed, say environmental law experts. The report is the result of the Expert Panel’s nationwide engagement, which gathered input from scientific and legal experts, Indigenous peoples, industry representatives and members of the public. “This past autumn, the Expert Panel heard from Canadians at hearings across the country demanding a next-generation law to assess the effects of proposed developments such as pipelines, oil sands projects, dams and mines,” said Anna Johnston, Staff Counsel at West Coast Environmental Law. “The recommendations of the Expert Panel – and the government’s response to those recommendations – will also be hugely important to achieving sustainability and reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Johnston added. Environmental lawyers and scientists say that to work for the public and the environment, a next-generation assessment law must:

  • Account for the economic, ecological, and social aspects of sustainability;
  • Respect Indigenous authority and governance;
  • Connect assessment, decision-making, and action by different levels of government;
  • Provide for full public participation, transparency, accountability, and rights to challenge decisions in court;
  • Address the causes and effects of climate change;
  • Include strategic and regional assessment as fundamental components;
  • Require appropriate assessment of the thousands of smaller projects currently not being studied; and
  • Promote evidence-based decision-making.
“The environmental community will be judging the Expert Panel’s recommendations based on how the Panel addresses the key questions that came up time and time again during the hearings,” said Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada. “These are concrete criteria that Canada's best experts have agreed are necessary for industrial development in the 21st century.” “Looking through the submissions the Panel received, it’s clear that our current environmental assessment law needs a complete overhaul,” said Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel at Nature Canada. “This isn’t the time to make small adjustments to a deeply flawed process – we need a new law that ensures the health of Canadians and the environment, and this is our chance to get it right.” The Expert Panel report is expected to be released to the government and the public in both official languages on March 31st. The release of the report is expected to be followed by a 30-day public comment period. –30– For more information, please contact: Anna Johnston | Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law 604-340-2304, anna_johnston@wcel.org Jamie Kneen | Communications & Outreach Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada 613-761-2273, jamie@miningwatch.ca Stephen Hazell | Director of Conservation & General Counsel, Nature Canada 613-562-3447 ext. 240, shazell@naturecanada.ca Devon Page | Executive Director, Ecojustice 778-828-5512

Sustainability through Law Reform
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Sustainability through Law Reform

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] The sustainability of proposed projects (e.g., pipelines, oil sands mines, hydro dams) and policies (e.g., federal budgets) should be assessed by law says Nature Canada. Appearing on behalf of Nature Canada before the Expert Panel on Environmental Assessment Processes on November 1, Stephen Hazell noted that federal environmental assessment laws and policies in place since 1992 have not made a major contribution to reversing the trends toward greater unsustainability in Canada—whether measured in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting biodiversity, greening the economy, improving the health of communities, or advancing reconciliation with Indigenous people. Hazell said that Nature Canada is confident that a reformed federal impact assessment regime can nonetheless be a critical tool to achieving ecological, economic and social sustainability. Sustainability assessment asks the question: Does a project or policy provide a net contribution to lasting environmental, social and economic well-being without demanding trade-offs that entail significant adverse effects? Sustainability assessment goes beyond environmental assessment, which asks much narrower questions such as how adverse environmental effects of a project can be made less bad. Sustainability assessment seeks to improve positive elements of a project as well mitigate negative elements. Hazell also argued that assessments of the environmental effects of proposed federal policies (so-called strategic environmental assessments or SImage of treesEAs) should also be required by law.  The federal budget is arguably the most important federal environmental policy in any given year, yet is not systematically examined for its contribution to sustainability because of budget secrecy concerns. But a strategic environmental assessment of federal budgets could be conducted after the budget is delivered, with the learnings from that SEA informing subsequent budgets. The Expert Panel was established by the Hon. Catherine McKenna in August 2016 to review federal environmental assessment processes. The Expert Panel is engaging broadly with Indigenous people, key stakeholders and Canadians including through hearing sessions and workshops held in over 20 communities across Canada.  The Expert Panel is tasked with reporting back to the Minister in January 2017.

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Canada’s environment is central to Canadians’ prosperity, says coalition of environmental organizations
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Canada’s environment is central to Canadians’ prosperity, says coalition of environmental organizations

Last week, the Green Budget Coalition released a report, Recommendations for Budget 2015, which encourages the Government of Canada to take certain measures to advance environmental sustainability and stimulate innovation and economic opportunities. "The Green Budget Coalition believes strongly that adopting the recommendations in his document will be invaluable for providing Canadians with a healthy environment, a thriving, sustainable economy and the opportunity to live healthy lives today and far into the future," said Andrew Van Iterson, Manager of the Green Budget Coalition. The report focuses on three strategic areas:

  1. Energy innovation and climate change leadership
  2. Achieving Canada's conservation commitments
  3. Ensuring healthy communities for all Canadians

[button link="http://greenbudget.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Green-Budget-Coalitions-Recommendations-for-Budget-2015-November-12-2014.pdf" size="medium" target="_self" color="alternative-1" lightbox="false"]Read the full report here[/button]


Nature Canada is a member of the Green Budget Coalition. The Coalition brings together the collective expertise of fourteen of Canada’s leading environmental and conservation organizations, representing over 600,000 Canadians, to present an analysis of the most pressing issues regarding environmental sustainability in Canada and to make a consolidated annual set of recommendations to the federal government regarding strategic fiscal and budgetary opportunities.  

Deadline to comment on White Pines Wind Farm approaches
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Deadline to comment on White Pines Wind Farm approaches

This Saturday, May 10th, is the deadline for public comment on the proposed White Pines Wind Farm in southern Prince Edward County, Ontario. This expansive wind energy project anticipates 29 turbines, many of which are located in the Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area and directly adjacent to Ostrander Point. The proponent has thousands of pages of documents on their website as part of their government application for a Renewable Energy Permit. Nature Canada opposes wind turbines in the IBA. These turbines will damage wetlands and globally rare alvar habitat, and threaten many species including migrating swallows, Purple Martins and raptors, and the at-risk Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Whippoorwill and Blanding’s Turtle. Other elements of the project—those outside the IBA and significant habitat—are more likely to have a minimal impact on wildlife. There are also many other areas in Prince Edward County where turbines could operate without posing a serious risk. We strongly believe that turbines should be kept out of Ontario’s wildlife hotspots. If this is something you feel strongly about, you can voice your opinions using the Ontario government’s Environmental Registry. The Registry is key tool for democratizing the environmental review process. It gives Canadians a unique opportunity to share their views about development projects with the Ministry of the Environment. You can submit your comments to the Ministry here. The deadline to comment on the White Pines project is May 10, 2014. Going forward, we will see the effects of the Ontario government’s recent amendments to the Ontario’s environmental regulations, and how public participation in environmental review will be compromised. Proponents of wind projects no longer require species at risk permits, and without the public permitting process, species at risk reports are now off the public record. For us at Nature Canada, this raises serious concerns about accountability and the public right to participate in decisions that could very well transform our landscapes. With an Ontario election on the horizen, we encourage Ontarians who care about nature to press their candidates on the issue of weakened environmental protections. Together, we can push for environmental standards that will make renewable energy projects like White Pines truly green.

Critical environmental news missed amongst Rob Ford and Senate scandals
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Critical environmental news missed amongst Rob Ford and Senate scandals

Upheaval in the Senate and in Toronto’s mayoral office swept the news this week, sidelining critical environmental reports from the federal Environment Commissioner and Ontario Environment Commissioner on the state of Canada’s wildlife and habitat. From inadequate protection of National Wildlife Areas to a lack of conservation planning for Canada’s bird species in steep decline, the federal Environment Commissioner’s audit found that Canada is not meeting its commitments and responsibilities to protect biodiversity. Nature Canada stands beside several other environmental conservation groups in saying that Environment Canada needs significant new funding in order to implement the important recommendations released yesterday by the interim commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development committee, Neil Maxwell. “Yesterday’s report from the Environment Commissioner confirms the fears of many Canadians that Environment Canada’s protected areas are in a poor state and in desperate need of serious investment.” said Ian Davidson, Executive Director of Nature Canada. “We would add to the Environment Commissioner’s report that the current poor state of Canada’s protected areas is due to chronic underfunding rather than management failures on the part of Environment Canada. It’s entirely preventable.” Read our full press release At the provincial level, Ontario’s Environment Commissioner released a report yesterday warning that regulatory changes to the province’s Endangered Species Act and its ineffective implementation by the Ministry of Natural Resources threaten the protection of Ontario’s endangered species. Commissioner Miller proposed these guidelines for the province’s efforts to protect endangered species: “...the Ministry of Natural Resources must actually take responsibility for improving the protection of species at risk; decisions should ultimately lead to the recovery of species; and MNR must genuinely engage the public.” Read the Ontario Environment Commissioner’s report    

Nature Canada Selected as one of Canada’s Top Environmental Charities
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Nature Canada Selected as one of Canada’s Top Environmental Charities

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Last week, we were pleased to be named one of Canada’s top environmental charities for 2013 by Charity Intelligence Canada. In a report on the environmental sector, Charity Intelligence Canada looked at three of the most pressing issues facing Canada’s environment and selected seven charities that addressed these issues and achieved the best track record of results. “With our successes in getting official recognition of several key sites for environmental protection, we’ve had a very good year we can be proud of,” said Ian Davidson, Executive Director of Nature Canada. “We’re pleased to have this hard work recognized by Charity Intelligence,” Davidson continued. Nature Canada was selected as a top performing environmental charity for its advocacy work on endangered species and habitat protection. The nomination is a nod to Nature Canada’s major educational program with Parks Canada and successful advocacy campaigns on the creation and better protection of National Parks and National Wildlife Areas, endangered species legislation and habitat stewardship. Nature Canada was actively engaged in the Northern Gateway Pipeline process as an advocate for nature and wildlife and was instrumental in bringing together conservationists from around the world for BirdLife International’s World Congress in Ottawa this past June.  However, the Charity Intelligence report recognizes that there’s still work to be done. Only 12.2% of Canada’s land is protected, ranking 16th out of 30 OECD countries. As a comparison, in the United States, 24% of land is protected. In terms of oceans, Canada ranks further down the list in 70th place in the protection of marine ecosystems. Fragile arctic ecosystems and watersheds are particularly in need of protection. Canada has an estimated 70,000 species but this valuable biodiversity is fragile with a third of species threatened.  Policy analysis and research, like the kind that Nature Canada conducts, is an important part of finding solutions to these environmental challenges. In fact briefing notes prepared for the former Environment minister, Peter Kent, revealed the Harper government acknowledges the "significant environmental policy analysis and research" that is carried out by Nature Canada and other environmental non-profits and think tanks. While the challenges facing Canada’s environment and wildlife are significant, Nature Canada’s programs and partnerships are strongly positioned to affect positive change for Canada’s threatened species and habitats. We would also like to congratulate the environmental charities featured in the report on their successes this past year in protecting and conserving Canada’s wildlife and habitat. 

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