By Amber Gregg, Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society —
I am writing this in spring 2020, amid the COVID-19 craziness. I don’t know where we will be by the summer when this article is published. Maybe by then we will have put terms like quarantine and social distancing behind us and resumed our normal lives, or perhaps we are adjusting to a new way of life.
I am very aware that for many people, this pandemic has caused both mental and physical challenges, and possibly financial hardship and increased food security concerns. That said, I have been impressed by what I have witnessed from family, friends, coworkers, businesses, and neighbours during this time.
Online communities have been popping up to offer support and alternative virtual options for everything from fitness to arts and entertainment to content for kids of all ages. Businesses and organizations in our community have come together to provide resources for those that need it. I see my neighbours cleaning up their yards or walking and biking while following appropriate social distancing. On Earth Day, my kids and I saw many other families out picking up garbage while maintaining appropriate physical distancing guidelines. When I check in with friends and family, they are trying new things (how did everyone make out with their sourdough recipes?) or finishing up previously abandoned projects.
At the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society (CCCS), our educators spend much of their time delivering presentations in classrooms. In April, we would have held our popular Earth Challenge, a jeopardy style quiz for grade 7 students held on or around Earth Day. When it became apparent that schools would be closed indefinitely, rather than throw in the towel, our team brought ideas forward to provide an online, virtual version of the challenge, set for mid-May.
CCCS team members are often a constant presence at community events, providing zero waste coaching and shining a unique and entertaining light on waste diversion. With event cancellations, our team has had to consider alternate ways to provide waste diversion education to the community at large. Without hesitation, they jumped into creating a video series about composting and recycling, including a tour of our recycling facilities. Check out our Facebook and Instagram for #trashtalktuesdays” and get all your questions answered.
When asked to completely upend our lives for the sake of the vulnerable and to conserve resources, the world has found ways to continue to be there for one another and focus on what we can do. If we were to apply this type of thinking to making sustainable choices, imagine the results. I hear from people that it is hard to keep up with recycle guidelines. What goes where? What doesn’t get recycled? It’s so confusing. Why bother recycling when that process also uses up resources?
If we look at this from the mindset, ‘What can I do? What fits into my life?’ and start there, we may not be perfect, but we will make progress. Maybe joining a climate action group is not your thing and attending litter pick-ups and clean up days is too much of a stretch for you. It is possible that trying to only use local, homemade products seems a daunting task. Perhaps the thought of taking a shorter shower or having a golden lawn is not something you are willing to do.
Climate change has become like a dark cloud looming above our heads and moving in a positive direction may seem impossible. Scientific data and reports can put a real damper on even the most enthusiastic conservationist and make you feel like there is no point in even trying. If we shift our focus from the problem to the solution, we start to forget that it seems impossible and see some positive results.
Our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 have had a positive impact on the Earth and many cities around the world are using this information to move forward into a greener, more sustainable future. More bike paths and walking areas are being created to offer safer options for alternatives to travel by fossil fuels. Some cities are even turning full auto travel routes into bike routes.
I understand that we each have our own lifestyle and the freedom to make choices that suit that lifestyle. I think most of us recognize that these choices impact the world we live in. As the lockdown becomes less strict and you are able to resume your normal, everyday activities, I urge you to look at how you might adopt one new footprint reduction habit into your routine, or leave a less sustainable one in the past. Whatever that means to you, the hard part has already been done. You have already had to change your entire lifestyle for over a month—I know you can do it!
If you need any support or have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at CCCS. We are always happy to help share our thoughts and ideas and answer your questions.
Amber is the Coordinator for the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society. When she is not working on spreadsheets or supporting the CCCS team, she enjoys getting outdoors with her husband and two boys. Visit CCCS at https://www.ccconserv.org to learn more about our education programs or community projects.