Tuesday, 19 March 2019

EcoSask News, March 19, 2019


Upcoming Events
Putting a Price on Carbon, Mar. 19 (Saskatoon)
Jason McLean will discuss the law and economics of putting a price on carbon at 7 pm, Mar. 19.

Seeking Solace, Mar. 20-Apr. 18 (Saskatoon)
Kathy Bradshaw’s paintings explore the power of landscape at the Frances Morrison Library Gallery from Mar. 20-Apr. 18.

Wascana Solar Co-op AGM, Mar. 21 (Regina)
Wascana Solar Co-op is holding their membership’s annual general meeting at 7 pm, Mar. 21.

Saskatoon Nature Society AGM, Mar. 21 (Saskatoon)
Following a short business meeting, Saskatoon Nature Society members will share their photographs from the past year at 7:30 pm, Mar. 21.

Nature Photography, Mar. 22 (Moose Jaw)
Bob Schultz will share his photographs and answer questions about nature photography at the 7 pm, Mar. 22, meeting of the Moose Jaw Nature Society.

Passivhaus, Mar. 22-24 (Saskatoon)
Michael Nemeth will be speaking about passive houses at HomeStyles: 4 pm, Mar. 22, 11 am, Mar. 23, 11 am, Mar. 24.

Wascana Park in Winter, Mar. 23 (Regina)
Join Nature Regina on their Wascana Park field trip from 9 am-noon, Mar. 23.

Wild Mushrooms, Mar. 23 (Regina)
Learn about wild mushrooms from 10 am-12 pm at the Sunrise Branch of the Regina Public Library and from 2-4 pm at the Glen Elm branch.

SaskOutdoors AGM, Mar. 23 (Saskatoon)
SaskOutdoors is holding its annual general meeting near Saskatoon on Mar. 23.

Kelsey Ecological Society, Mar. 24 (Preeceville)
Michael and Kathleen Pitt will talk about the South Nahanni River: Canoeists’ Mecca at the Kelsey Ecological Society meeting at 2 pm, Mar. 24, at Club 60 Preeceville.

Garden Art for Kids, Mar. 24 (Regina)
Kids can decorate a plant container and learn about planting seeds from 2-3 pm, Mar. 24, at the Regina Central Library.

Water for Sale, Mar. 26 (Prince Albert)
Virtual speaker Regan Boychuk will discuss the commercialization of water at the Prince Albert Council of Canadian’s meeting from 7-8:30 pm, Mar. 26.

Introduction to Permaculture, Mar. 26 (Regina)
Find out about permaculture techniques and how they can be applied in your yard from 7-8:30 pm, Mar. 26, at Sunrise Library.

Our Planet’s Future, Mar. 26 (Saskatoon)
Dr. Roberta Bondar will speak on sustaining the future of our planet and ourselves from 7-8 pm, Mar. 26, at the University of Saskatchewan.

Conserving Native Grasslands, Mar. 28 (Saskatoon)
Trevor Herriot and Branimir Gjetvaj are giving a free public talk at 5:30 pm, Mar. 28, on getting native grasslands on Canada’s conservation radar. Register in advance. The talk is part of a networking event planned by the University of Saskatchewan.


Looking Ahead
SK Association of Watersheds Conference, Apr. 15-17 (Moosomin)
The Saskatchewan Association of Watersheds will hold their annual conference from Apr. 15-17 in Moosomin.

Nature Playcare, Apr. 23-26 (Saskatoon)
Wildernook and SaskOutdoors are hosting a Spring Camp edition of Nature Playcare from Apr. 23-26 – 3-4 year olds in the morning, 4-5 year olds in the afternoon.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News
Wascana Solar Co-op uses group purchases to make solar panels affordable.

Nova Scotia has introduced a bill to protect biodiversity.

Prevention is the only effective way to deal with plastic pollution.

Cities have a key role to play in confronting climate change, starting with shared mobility and taking back the streets from the private car.

A growing number of German households are installing batteries to store solar power.

Horizon by Barry Lopez is a “grave, sorrowful, beautiful book.”

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Insects - Valuable, Unloved

Tachinid fly - Adejeania vexatrix ?

Insectaggedon – the media has been full of stories about the rapid decline in the world’s insect population. And yet, is it any wonder? Pronghorn are graceful, owls are mysterious, pandas are adorable, but we don’t show insects much love. In fact, our first reaction when we spot a spider in the house or an ant hill in the garden is to destroy it. We spray our gardens and crops with pesticides, paying little attention to the impact this will have on other wildlife or the environment as a whole.

That’s Amazing 
“Well, let me tell you, ants are the dominant insects. They make up as much as a quarter of the biomass of all insects in the world. They are the principal predators. They're the cemetery workers.” (E. O. Wilson) 

There are 30 million different species of insects (as opposed to 5000 species of the furry animals we find easy to love). That’s 60% of all animal species. Put them all together and they would “outweigh all the fish in the oceans and all the livestock munching grass on land.” They play a vital role in our ecosystem – from pollinating crops to recycling dead trees and controlling pests.

Insects are also amazingly beautiful. Fireflies light up the night. Jewel beetles have iridescent, brilliantly coloured bodies. The wings of butterflies and moths offer a diversity of rich colours and patterns. The Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov pays homage to a common insect.

Insects have influenced both religion and culture. The Buddhists viewed cicadas as a symbol of resurrection because of their cyclical reappearances. The humble dung beetle played a role in ancient Egyptian art and religion. “People saw how the scarab beetle (Scarabaeus sacer) rolled a ball of manure along the ground and concluded that a giant celestial dung beetle must roll the sun across the sky each day.” Silkworms – and the silk they produced – were a driving force in opening up trade between Europe and China and led Christopher Columbus to the Americas in his search for the quickest sea route to the Orient.

Engineers designing shock absorbers for a fighter jet studied grasshopper legs. The venom from deathstalker scorpions is being used in clinical trials to fight cancer. Cockroaches thrive in filthy environments thanks to the super antibiotics in their brains – antibiotics that may someday help humans to fight off bacteria that no longer respond to current medical options.

Many insects display superpowers that cannot be matched by humans. Dragonflies have very small brains, but they successfully capture their prey 97% of the time by focusing on one particular insect and ignoring all the rest. When threatened, bombardier beetles spray their attacker with a “boiling hot mixture of caustic chemicals. . . . The beetle itself is not harmed by the fiery chemical reaction. Using two special chambers inside the abdomen, the bombardier beetle mixes potent chemicals and uses an enzymatic trigger to heat and release them.”

Insects are often caring parents: “Giant water bug fathers carry their eggs on their backs, keeping them oxygenated and hydrated. . . . Bess beetles form family units, with both parents working together to rear their young. Their relationship is so sophisticated they've developed their own vocabulary and communicate with each other by squeaking.”

water strider

All I’m Asking is for a Little Respect
“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.” (E. O. Wilson) 

Reports of declining insect numbers have dominated the media over the past few years. Although there have been flaws or gaps in some of the research,* there is no doubting that the populations of many insect species are declining rapidly.

Despite recognition that shrinking insect populations will have harmful consequences to the ecosystem as a whole, there has been a limited concrete response. Researchers deplore the lack of funding, noting that only a few species are being monitored on a consistent basis – honey bees, monarch butterflies, some species of mosquitoes. What funding is available is often focused on protecting agricultural crops and doesn’t acknowledge the broader relevance of insects to our ecosystem.

The lack of awareness of insects’ importance is demonstrated by their absence from educational curriculum and textbooks. A study of 88 introductory biology textbooks published since 2000 showed that they “contain 75% less insect-related material than those published before 1960; the average modern text now allots just 5.67 pages to insects, accounting for a mere 0.59% of book content.” The study’s authors “place these trends within a larger underrepresentation of insects in science, and also a decline in appreciation for both biodiversity and natural history. Pages once devoted to animals and plants are now reserved for genetics and cell biology. The effect is one of detachment from nature in general and insects in particular.”

Conservation organizations fail to counter society’s lack of respect for insects. The cuddly panda is the icon of the World Wildlife Fund. The Canadian Wildlife Federation invites donors to adopt “a beautiful bear . . . a whimsical wolf . . . a magnificent moose” – there’s not even a cute little ladybug. 

praying mantis

Unsung Heroes
“I'm obsessed with insects, particularly insect flight. I think the evolution of insect flight is perhaps one of the most important events in the history of life. Without insects, there'd be no flowering plants. Without flowering plants, there would be no clever, fruit-eating primates giving TED Talks.” (Michael Dickinson) 

Paul Manning, a doctoral student in zoology at the University of Oxford, describes insects as “the unsung heroes, the little things that run the world” but urges people to move beyond their functional importance to a broader appreciation of insects: “When we experience the fascinating world of insects firsthand, the dominant dialogue of ‘insects as ecosystem service providers’ begins to shift. Instead, we start to recognise the beauty, mystery and wonder of the insect world for what it is: beautiful, mysterious and wonderful. Through building a stronger appreciation of the important inherent value of insect biodiversity, hopefully ‘what do they do for us?’ will share more space with ‘what can we do for them?’ ”

* The recent analysis of declining insect populations published in Biological Conservation was a review of recent literature, but its choice of search terms meant it only included articles that reported a decline in insect populations and reported primarily on the northern hemisphere.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

EcoSask News, March 12, 2019


Upcoming Events
Ferruginous Hawks, Mar. 13 (webinar)
Janet Ng will offer a noon-hour webinar on ferruginous hawks on Mar. 13 as part of SK-PCAP’s Native Prairie Speaker Series.

Standing Rock vs Dakota Access Pipeline, Mar. 13 (Saskatoon) & Mar. 14 (Regina)
Nick Estes, author of Our History is the Future: Standing Rock vs the Dakota Access Pipeline & the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance, will be speaking in Saskatoon at 12:30 and 7 pm, Mar. 13, and in Regina at 7 pm, Mar. 14.

Care & Pruning of Trees, Mar. 14 (Regina)
Find out how to care for your trees at the Regent Place branch of the Regina Public Library from 7:30-8:30 pm, Mar. 14.

Essence, Mar. 14 (Saskatoon)
Essence, a film about Ness Creek, is premiering at 7 pm, Mar. 14, in Saskatoon.

Repair Café, Mar. 16 (Prince Albert) 
Share and learn skills to repair things at Repair Café Prince Albert from 1-4 pm, Mar. 16.

Project Wet, Mar. 16 (Regina)
SaskOutdoors is hosting a Project Wet workshop for K-12 teachers in Regina from 9:30 am-3:30 pm, Mar. 16.

Ecological Literacy for Adults, Mar. 16 (Saskatoon)
Lichen Nature is offering an ecological literacy event to help people connect with nature from 10 am-2:30 pm, Mar. 16.

Flying Ambassador, Mar. 16 (Saskatoon) 
USask’s Wild and Exotic Animal Medicine Society will be bringing one of their animals to Wild Birds Unlimited from 1-3 pm, Mar. 16.

Prairie’s Got the Goods Week, Mar. 17-23 (Saskatchewan)
Enjoy daily webinars during PCAP-SK’s Prairie’s Got the Goods Week from Mar. 17-23. Topics include Prairie Wetlands: A Case Study of the Smith Creek Drainage Basin and Native Grassland and its Importance to Grassland Songbirds.

Bumble Bee Pathogens, Mar. 18 (Regina)
Kirsten Palmier will discuss bumble bee pathogens from 7:30-9:30 pm, at the Mar. 18 meeting of Nature Regina.

Bird ID for Novice Birders, Mar. 18 (Saskatoon)
The Saskatoon Nature Society and the SK Breeding Bird Atlas are offering a free two-hour workshop on the basics of bird identification from 7-9 pm, Mar. 18.

Indigenous Renewable Connections, Mar. 20 (Saskatoon)
Indigenous employees, students and businesses along with renewable energy employers and industry are invited to make connections and build relationships at the Workforce Connex event at the U of S, Mar. 20 from 8:30 am-4:30 pm.

raindrops on cedar branch

Looking Ahead
Basic Wildlife Rehab. Course, Apr. 6-7 (Saskatoon)
Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation is hosting a two-day introduction to wildlife rehabilitation on Apr. 6 & 7 in Saskatoon.

Passive House Planning Package, Apr. 11-13 (Saskatoon)
This course, being offered in Saskatoon from Apr. 11-13, provides step-by-step instruction for using the PHPP energy modelling software, which is essential for designing a Passive House building.

Birding with Jared, May 26 (Regina) 
Join Jared Clarke on a birding bus tour with experienced guides from 8 am-4 pm, May 26. Pickups in Regina and Balgonie. Proceeds to the Milestone NDP Constituency Association.

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
Mar. 16, 7:45-10 pm – Saw-whet owling near Pike Lake
Mar. 30, 9:15 am-2 pm – Bluebird trip
Everyone is welcome. Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s NEW website for full details and updated information.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News
Environment Canada and the Department of Defence are working together to protect natural areas on military bases.

"It’s not about how old the trees are, it’s about how long there’s been a forest on that site. Studying lichen that can only be found in a particular site will help determine the age and biodiversity of a forest."

We are the Ark - “it’s up to each of us to re-wild our world, piece by piece until we have a patchwork quilt of sanctuaries that wraps its way around the globe.”

Vancouver Park Board looks into more humane pest control methods.

4 pairs of lovely legs - 9 of the world's most beautiful spiders.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

EcoSask News, March 5, 2019

American robin

Upcoming Events
Soil, Compost & Mulch, Mar. 6 (Regina)
Find out about soil, compost, and mulch at the George Bothwell branch of the Regina Public Library from 7:30-8:30 pm, Mar. 6.

Balancing Self-Care & Community Care, Mar. 11 (Saskatoon)
The Saskatoon Enviro Collective is hosting a potluck supper and discussion about the interplay between self-care and community care from 6:30-9:30 pm, Mar. 11. Register early as spots are limited.

Multiple Species Management Workshop, Mar. 12 (Consul)
Landowners and managers will discuss their experiences in implementing multiple-species management plans from 1-5:30 pm, Mar. 12, in Consul. This will be followed by a conservation appreciation supper hosted by Nature Saskatchewan.

Outdoor Lighting Design, Mar. 12 (Saskatoon)
Rick Huziak will discuss outdoor lighting design and its effect on the environment at 12 pm, Mar. 1, at Innovation Place Saskatoon.

Pre-Election Forum on the Climate Crisis, Mar. 13 (Fort Qu’Appelle)
The Qu’Appelle Valley Environmental Association is holding a pre-election forum on the climate crisis from 7-9 pm, Mar. 13, in the Treaty Four Governance Centre in Fort Qu’Appelle. Elizabeth May will be speaking; other national party leaders were invited but declined to attend.

Looking Ahead
Fridays for Future, Mar. 15 (Regina)
As part of the Global Climate Strike for Future on Mar. 15, participants will be meeting in front of the Legislative Building in Regina from noon-1 pm.

Bridging the Gap, Mar. 31 (Coronach)
Climate Justice Saskatoon will be holding a workshop in Coronach on Mar. 31 to discuss the community’s transition away from coal. Message Climate Justice Saskatoon if you’re interested in attending.

Sask Wildlife Society AGM, Apr. 6 (Saskatoon)
The Saskatchewan chapter of The Wildlife Society will be holding its annual general meeting from 11 am-6 pm, Apr. 6, in Saskatoon. Email chelseamanz306@gmail.com to register.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

American Robin

In the News
Citizens Environmental Alliance – Saskatchewan is calling on the federal government for an environmental assessment of agricultural drainage in Saskatchewan and the province's Agricultural Water Management Strategy. Support their work by signing the petition. For more information, take a look at We’re Losing our Wetlands – and that’s a Big Problem.

The provincial government’s proposal for a possibly 6-lane freeway around Saskatoon was approved around 2005 but with no environmental assessment and minimal public input. The proposed location would cut through both the Small Swale and the conservation zone of the Northeast Swale about ½ km from the North Commuter Highway through the Swale and the bridge would be located about the same distance from the new Chief Mistawasis Bridge. Northeast Swale Watchers are urging residents to express their concerns online.

In response to concerns raised by Birds in Real Danger and Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation, the Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA) has included a more rigorous assessment for bird-friendly building design in its review process and the City of Saskatoon has begun to develop bird-friendly building guidelines and is publishing a Healthy Yards pamphlet with tips to help homeowners protect birds from collisions with glass. Both the University of Saskatchewan and the MVA have added dots to some of their windows to prevent bird collisions.

“After water, concrete is the most widely used substance on the planet. . . . By one calculation, we may have already passed the point where concrete outweighs the combined carbon mass of every tree, bush and shrub on the planet.”

A teacher wore the same dress for 100 days to teach her students about slow, sustainable fashion.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Alternatives: Energy Saving Options in Europe

It’s easy to imagine that homes in Europe operate in much the same way as homes in Canada, but that’s not the case.* From locking the door to three-pronged plugs, there are different ways of doing things. This certainly applies to energy saving options.

Heating the House
Winters are obviously warmer in Europe than on the Canadian Prairies, but many of the tactics used by Europeans to save energy when heating their homes could apply in Canada.

Many homeowners program their heating system to come on for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening. They don’t heat their homes during the day when they are active or out of the house or at night. You can override the thermostat settings, but that requires thought and action as opposed to programming the heat to be on all the time automatically.

Some households supplement their household heating system with a wood stove. This is a mixed blessing, especially in cities, as wood stoves can be a major source of indoor and outdoor air pollution. There are ways of tackling this with more efficient stoves and improved fuel sources. 

Smaller homes or apartments that use electric heat sometimes save energy with a night storage heater. It looks very much like a normal radiator but operates differently. The electricity comes on for several hours during the night when electricity is much cheaper (about a third of the price) and is stored as heat in a large brick. The heat is then slowly released during the day. You can turn the heat up or down, but when the stored heat is used up, no more will be available until the following day.

Heat loss is kept to a minimum by hanging a heavy curtain in front of outside doors or closing the shutters on the windows at night. The shutters play a double role as they are closed in the summer to keep homes cool during the heat of the day.

Very few homes in Europe have a clothes drier and, if they do have one, they use it sparingly. Clothes are hung to dry on a clothes horse or outdoor clothesline or draped over radiators and stairwell banisters.

Some households only run the washing machine or dishwasher at night in order to take advantage of cheaper electricity rates.

Hot Water 
Many European homes have an immediate hot water supply – but not all. In some homes, you have to switch the hot water on before you have a shower or wash dishes, and you may have to wait a significant length of time before there is sufficient hot water to take a bath. It’s not as convenient as you have to plan in advance, but you save energy by not continually reheating the water stored in the tank.

Phantom Energy 
Many modern electronic devices draw energy even when they’re not in use – televisions, computers, chargers for telephones and tablets. You can avoid phantom energy by unplugging devices when not in use or by using a power bar which can be turned on and off. The British have an additional option as most socket outlets have a switch to turn power on or off at the source. They don’t always take advantage of this option, but it’s certainly more convenient than a power bar.

Lights in many apartment building hallways in Europe aren’t on 24/7. Instead, you turn them on when you enter a hallway or stairwell and they go off automatically a few seconds later, saving money as well as energy.

* Penny McKinlay has been housesitting in the United Kingdom and France for several months every winter for the past 5 years and has learned to adapt to different ways of operating a home.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

EcoSask News, February 26, 2019

ice and grass

Upcoming Events
Enviro Collective Regina, Feb. 28 (Regina) 
The Regina Enviro Collective is meeting from 7-9 pm, Feb. 28.

Carbon Sequestration on the Prairies, Feb. 28 (webinar) 
Sean Chuan, ARECA, will present a webinar on carbon sequestration on the Prairies at noon, Feb. 28.

Water Conservation, Feb. 28 (Regina) 
Join the Regina Horticultural Society for a discussion on irrigation and water conservation from 7-8:30 pm, Feb. 28.

SK Species at Risk, Feb. 28 (Saskatoon)
Greg Fenty will discuss the alarming decline in the number of Saskatchewan songbirds and other species at Wild Birds Unlimited at 7 pm, Feb. 28.

Contaminant Levels in Arctic Shorebirds, Mar. 1 (Saskatoon)
Katelyn Luff and Ella Lunny will discuss contaminant levels in Arctic shorebirds at 3:30 pm, Mar. 1, as part of the WildEcol seminar series at the U of S.

Wascana Park in Winter, Mar. 2 (Regina) 
Join Nature Regina on their Wascana Park field trip from 9 am-noon, Mar. 2.

Judicial Review, Mar. 5 (webinar) 
Learn about the basics of judicial review of government processes and decision-making from Charles Hatt, a staff lawyer at Ecojustice, from 1-2 pm EST, Mar. 5.

Smarter Science, Better Buildings, Mar. 5-22 (Moose Jaw) 
Grade 7 students and the general public are invited to view the Smarter Science, Better Buildings exhibit at the Moose Jaw Western Development Museum March 5-22.

Species at Risk Farm Program, Mar. 6 (Assiniboia, Weyburn)
Heather Peat Hamm will discuss the species at risk farm program at 1 pm, Mar. 6, in Assiniboia and at 7 pm, Mar. 6, in Weyburn.

City of Saskatoon Climate Change Update, Mar. 6 (Saskatoon) 
Kristin Bruce and Hilary Carlson will share a climate change update for the City of Saskatoon at the Mar. 6 meeting of the Energy Management Task Force.

Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards AGM, Mar. 7 (Swift Current) 
Everyone is welcome to attend the annual meeting of the Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards at 1 pm, Mar. 7.

ice and grass

Looking Ahead
Balancing Self-Care & Community Care, Mar. 11 (Saskatoon) 
The Saskatoon Enviro Collective is hosting a potluck supper and discussion about the balance and interplay between self-care and community care from 6:30-9:30 pm, Mar. 11. Register early as spots are limited.

Winter Camping Workshop, Mar. 19 (Regina) 
Learn some tips and tricks for camping in below zero temperatures from 5:30-8 pm, Mar. 19.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar

In the News
Hundreds of pounds of food waste are being turned into valuable compost at the University of Saskatchewan.

Cities need to consider the overall urban forest, not just individual trees: "Debates over infill often focus on highly visible local impacts, such as local vehicle trips and tree losses, but ignore the much larger traffic impacts and habitat losses that would result from more urban fringe development."

"Our habitual way of dealing with Mother Nature assumes that we talk and she listens, full stop, end of sentence. That habit hasn’t worked well, to say the least, and the further we push it, the more disastrous the results are likely to be. What we need to recognize, rather, is that we’re engaged in a conversation with the old broad. We said 'pollution,' she quipped 'zebra mussels;' we said 'internal combustion engines,' and she smiled and said 'coastal flooding.' We can listen to her responses and learn from them—or not, and find out the hard way what else she has to say."

"It has become a habit to walk my yard the way I walk in forests, with senses wide open to wonder."

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Building Wellbeing Together

We believe that a person’s wellbeing depends on the wellbeing of the community in which they live and work, while the wellbeing of their community depends on the wellbeing of society as a whole, and the long-term health of the natural world on which we all depend.” 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that one person can do very little to shape the future. Nigel and Margaret Woodward refused to accept that perspective. After retiring to Totnes, United Kingdom, they began donating to a variety of environmental organizations. But this wasn’t enough – they wanted to take a more hands-on approach. After much thought and consultation, the couple decided to establish the Network of Wellbeing.

The Network of Wellbeing (NOW) is founded on a belief that individual wellbeing depends on the wellbeing of the community, the society as a whole, and the natural world. Evolving organically, the organization has grown to 5 part-time staff working on a variety of projects. Mirella Ferraz, the Totnes Project Coordinator, outlined the scope of Network of Wellbeing’s (NOW) activities.

Wellbeing in Totnes 
The Network of Wellbeing’s initial activities were centred on its home town of Totnes.

Totnes Wellbeing Fund: In setting up NOW, organizers had asked community members what they needed and how the community could be improved. They learned that people had ideas and wanted to set up projects but needed some initial capital to help get the projects off the ground. As a result, NOW established the Totnes Wellbeing Fund, which offers small seed grants (under $1,000) to individuals and organizations in Totnes and the neighbouring areas to help them turn their ideas for boosting wellbeing into reality. Projects that have been funded in the past include a pond in the Follaton Forest Garden, Dartington Restore (repair café and workshops), and Wild and Curious (foraging walks and workshops).

Monthly Potlucks: NOW also noticed that there were limited opportunities for families with young kids, newcomers, and single people to meet other members of the community. They decided to organize a monthly community potluck and the idea took off in a big way. The first potluck attracted almost 40 people and the attendance quickly grew to 70-100. Bigger events with decorations and entertainment were held at Christmas and to celebrate the International Day of Happiness in March. After 5 years of monthly potlucks organized by NOW, a group of local people has taken on this responsibility so that the potlucks are “run by the community for the community.”

You Can’t Buy Wellbeing 
Gross Domestic Product measures goods produced and services sold, but it doesn’t measure personal or community wellbeing. NOW has chosen to counter the dominant consumer culture by focusing on sharing, recognizing that there are many ways in which we can find fulfilment and meet our needs without money changing hands.

ShareShed: ShareShed, a library of things, was established in Totnes 1½ years ago. They now have 340 members who can borrow over 300 donated items. Share Shed opens its doors for several hours 3 times a week. The 5 most popular items are carpet cleaner, lawn mower, pressure washer, hedge trimmer, and projector.

Storage is a problem with items temporarily housed in NOW’s offices. The High Street location is a good one, but 2 flights of stairs limit visibility and accessibility. In addition to looking for more permanent storage space, the organization has applied for funding to buy a truck that could transport the 50 most popular items around the community. This would eliminate the need for a car in order to make use of the sharing library.

ShareFest: Totnes is an active community offering a great variety of activities and organizations. A large part of the community is ecologically minded, but others feel alienated by this approach, resulting in a subtle community division. Network of Wellbeing was discussing ways of bringing the community together and integrating it without attempting to convert when they heard about ShareFests.

ShareFests are “participatory events designed to connect the local sharing economy” and “celebrate ways we can share, make, swap and repair rather than always needing to buy new things.” Over 50 ShareFests have now been held in communities around the world, and Shareable offers a how-to guide and toolkit to help organize an event.

NOW wrote to community organizations inviting them to participate in the Totnes ShareFest in November 2018 as part of MAKE SMTHNG Week and got a great response. Over 800 people attended the day-long event and there were activities for everyone of all ages, ranging from an ugly Christmas sweater swap, crafts, and storytelling to tool sharpening and appliance and textile repairs. 

Building a Wellbeing Network 
NOW believes that wellbeing encompasses society as a whole and the natural world, and their activities extend well beyond the boundaries of Totnes.

Urban Wellbeing: Totnes is a small town and NOW was eager to see what could be done to promote wellbeing in a large city. A recent workshop in Leeds brought different organizations together to discuss compassion and wellbeing. It’s a trial project and they hope it will lead to a community festival of wellbeing.

Building Wellbeing Together: A national conference in 2017 brought together close to 100 people to discuss ways of building wellbeing together. The conference was designed to share the organization’s vision of holistic wellbeing and to encourage dialogue among professionals in the field. A second conference is planning for September 2019.

Webinars and Online Resources: NOW shares its knowledge and resources with as wide a population as possible. Online videos explore themes such as beyond GDP, putting welllbeing at the heart of government, and businesses’ role in promoting wellbeing.

The Network also runs regular free webinars with topics ranging from the role of happiness in social change to the nurturing power of soil, wellbeing and wildness, and growing your own happiness through gardening.

You can follow and participate in the Network of Wellbeing’s ideas and activities through their blog, by signing up for a monthly email update, or on social media.

See Also 
Transition Town Totnes