Thursday 27 October 2011


“Riding in a commercial jetliner simply isn’t traveling, as far as I’m concerned. 
It’s teleporting from point A to point B. You spend the entire time in the air just waiting to land, and afterward you speak of the flight only if it’s to complain about the turbulence or the snoring of the dude who sat next to you. The trip itself is nothing. A blank. 
A means of skipping ahead instead of wading through. 
And it’s precisely when we’re wading through that we often stumble upon the joy, misery, serendipity, and disaster of a true adventure.” 

Andrew McKinlay was less than 6 months old when he boarded his first international flight. He went to Europe when he was twelve, and by the time he was 16, he was backpacking on his own in Europe.

There were a few years when Andrew didn’t travel very much as he was fully occupied establishing his software company, Axon Development Corporation. But he and his wife, Shelley, were soon boarding airplanes bound for the far corners of the earth as they climbed and led climbing expeditions on four different continents – from Mt. McKinley in Alaska to Kilimanjaro in Africa, and from Aconcagua in South America to Himalayan peaks in Nepal, China, and Pakistan.

Fragile beauty
Climbing expeditions meant weeks and weeks away from civilization, discovering the beauty of remote mountain valleys, watching in awe as eagles soared overhead, and sharing the slopes with pikas and mountain sheep.

Andrew became more and more aware of the earth’s fragility. The slopes of Everest were strewn with litter. Roads eroded the mountain valleys. There was a Holiday Inn in Kathmandu. He began to read extensively and slowly found ways to lighten his footprint.

He and Shelley were avid cyclists, but they purchased a hybrid car for their trips to the mountains. They gradually adopted a vegetarian diet – how can you eat fish after scuba diving among the coral reefs? They are currently installing solar panels on their home.

“I got frustrated listening to people who talk “green” but are unwilling to give up any part of their comfortable lifestyle,” Andrew says, “so I started thinking about what I could give up.” Airplanes generate huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions that are particularly hard on the environment because they are emitted at high altitude. Takeoffs and landings use huge amounts of fuel.

Although Andrew loved travelling, he decided to stop flying, a decision that would have a big impact on his leisure activities, especially as he and Shelley had just taken up scuba diving, an activity that is much more enjoyable in the tropics than it is in Canada.

Travelling in style
It has been almost two years since Andrew took an airplane, but he is still travelling – in fact, he took three trips in one summer to the west coast and down to Baja, Mexico. There are some challenges, and it does require extra planning, but there are also tremendous benefits.

“Bus and train travel in Canada don’t have a good reputation,” says Andrew, “but it’s not like that in other countries. The buses in Peru have wi fi, movies, and first class seating.” Lots of people, including business people, travel by train in the dense population corridors on the east and west coasts of North America.

It’s not as easy in Canada where a sparse population spread out across a huge country has not made train travel popular. Canadian train journeys resemble a cruise with retired people willing to pay high fares to travel through the Rockies on an infrequent schedule.

Travel adventures
Once you abandon flying, travel becomes a leisurely part of the holiday. The dining car on the train offers three course meals, eaten while enjoying the scenery and chatting with fellow travellers.

Andrew tries to avoid spending more than one night on a bus or train. Instead, he plans stopovers in small communities along the way. The train station is often downtown, so he can walk to his hotel and spend time exploring a new location.

It does require more organization. Trains and buses link pairs of cities, so you must carefully plan your trip to join up far-flung destinations. You can only cross from Canada into the United States by train from Vancouver, Montreal or Toronto.

Each train or bus station is different, so you never know what to expect. “You might as well be in Mexico when you’re in the San Diego bus station,” Andrew says. “All the signs and the announcements were in Spanish. On the other hand, the Tijuana bus station was supposed to be scary, but it was big and modern and there were lots of families with kids. It wasn’t scary at all.”

Unfortunately, the predominance of air travel has eliminated some of the alternate options. Andrew and Shelley deliberately planned a scuba diving holiday in Bahamas as Andrew's research indicated he could travel by boat from the mainland to Bahamas and the other islands. But all of the ferry companies that used to operate have gone out of business. Public transport by boat is no longer an option, and Andrew has been forced to schedule a short flight from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau (while still travelling by train the rest of the way from Saskatoon).

“I haven’t ruled out flying in the future,” Andrew says, “but I plan to continue using ground transportation as much as possible. Not only is it greener, but I’ve found that I really enjoy it.”

Sustainable adventure
You can follow Andrew’s travel adventures on his blog, Sustainable Adventure. Listed below are posts that specifically discuss travel by train and/or bus:
Pedestrians and Falcons
Tips for Travelling by Bus and Train
The Road Less Travelled
Riding the Rails

Addendum: Take a look at Jan Norris’ blog, A Car-Free Year, as she chronicles living one year car- and airplane-free.

by Penny McKinlay (Andrew's sister, who took the bus to Vancouver in September)

Tuesday 25 October 2011

EcoSask News, October 25, 2011

Saskatoon Nature Society, October 30, November 5
The Saskatoon Nature Society has two upcoming events:

1:30 to 4:00 pm, Sunday, October 30: Identify weeds and seeds at Chief Whitecap Park (meet at the Co-op Service Station south of Stonebridge Mall on Clarence Avenue; leader is Anna Leighton, 665-6074)

9 am to 3 pm, Saturday, November 5: Search for Barrow’s Goldeneye, Long-tailed Duck, Pacific Loon, and other late migrating rarities at Blackstrap (bring a lunch and meet at the NW corner of the parking lot for the Centre at Circle and 8th; leader is Gord Crockford, 955-5028)

Ghoulish Fun at Beaver Creek, October 30
Bring your goblins and witches to Beaver Creek for some ghoulish fun on Sunday, October 30 from 1 to 4 pm. Unearth myth and mystery about some of Beaver Creek’s creatures like spiders, snakes, frogs, owls, crows, and coyote howls. This is a come-and-go event so you can plan your stay if you’re scared or brave.

SWWA Conference 2011, November 16-18
The Saskatchewan Water and Wastewater Association conference will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn, Saskatoon, November 16-18.

Black-Footed Ferrets released in Grasslands National Park
For the third year in a row, 15 captive bred black-footed ferrets, some born and raised at the Toronto Zoo, were released in the wilds of Grasslands National Park.

This year, Grassland ferret trackers had the unique experience of spotting three new ferret families on three different prairie dog colonies. The discovery of new families is confirming how quickly the ferrets are adapting to their new home on the Canadian prairie.

Free Parks Access for New Citizens
The Cultural Access Pass gives new Canadian citizens free admission to more than 100 of Parks Canada’s places for a year.

Prepare your Bicycle for Winter Riding
Check out this useful article from the Saskatchewan Environmental Society about how to prepare your bicycle for the winter. The article also considers winter clothing and riding style.

Kinsmen Fishing Platform
The Meewasin Valley Authority has received the Saskatchewan Parks & Recreation Cecil Nobes Facility Award of Excellence 2011 for the construction of the wheelchair-accessible Kinsmen Fishing Platform (accessible from the Meewasin Trail at 33rd Street E and Spadina Crescent). The Kinsmen Club of Saskatoon contributed over one third of the total cost.

Building Low Car(bon) Communities
Building Low Car(bon) Communities describes eight European communities that have designed new neighbourhoods with lower car ownership rates through a combination of measures that discourage private car use and improve walking, cycling, transit and various forms of shared vehicle use.

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature. Email if you have news or events that you would like us to include.

Visit EcoFriendly Sask's Calendar page for a more complete list of upcoming events.

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Tuesday 18 October 2011

EcoSask News, October 18, 2011

Up Close and Personal with Candace Savage, October 20
Join Candace Savage as she shares the delights and challenges of her writing life at 7:30 pm on Thursday, October 20 in the Gallery on the second level of the Frances Morrison Library. This event is sponsored by the Saskatoon Public Library and the Saskatoon Writers’ Coop in celebration of Saskatchewan Library Week.

Water and Agriculture: A Workshop for Saskatchewan’s Future Leaders, November 11-13
Proven leaders aged 18-35 are invited to participate in a weekend workshop to build Saskatchewan’s capacity to create healthy and productive communities while sustainably managing its watersheds and water resources by engaging tomorrow’s decision makers in experiential, meaningful exploration of the issues surrounding water and agriculture. The workshop will be held at Craik Eco Village. The deadline to apply is October 24.

Boreal Forest Monitoring Program
The Government of Saskatchewan, with assistance from various partners, is launching a comprehensive boreal forest monitoring program in northern Saskatchewan. Studies will address First Nations and M├ętis traditional knowledge, clean water, air and land management, and biodiversity. Relevant data being collected and reviewed will also assess historical trends dating from the 1970s to the present. The consultation deadline is October 25.

Green Yourself Week, University of Saskatchewan, October 24-28
The University of Saskatchewan is hosting a variety of events to celebrate Green Yourself Week. Activities include lectures (Sustainability at the U of S, Indigenous Knowledge Teachings), movies (Flow, Home) and Green Drinks/Paddock Wood Beer Tasting. Participants in the scavenger hunt and commuter challenge can win prizes.

The Oil Sands: Economic Saviour or Environmental Disaster?, October 27
Dr. David Schindler, who has been concerned with the effects of tar sands development on water quality and health impacts for Aboriginal communities downstream of the Alberta tar sands, will speak at 2:30 pm on Thursday, October 27 at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan.

Native Prairie Thrives Under Climate Change
Joe Piwowar, a University of Regina geography professor, has released a study showing that the native prairie has been getting greener over the past three decades, despite much drier weather and significant drought. This surprised Piwowar: “ I would have expected the prairie grasslands to be showing more signs of stress. Instead, there's been more biomass, more vegetation growth."

Piwowar has been studying Grasslands National Park as it is largely undisturbed by human activities. The next step of his research will be to work out why the vegetation has been increasing and how this change could impact human activity, such as agriculture, and biodiversity.

Environmental Film Festival
Contact the Saskatchewan Eco-Network if you are interested in helping to organize a series of environmental film festivals across the province.

Thursday 13 October 2011

The Ground Beneath Our Feet: Prairie Writers

“Ride off any horizon / and let the measure fall / where it may - / among the piles of bones that dot the prairie / in vision and history / (the buffalo and deer, / dead Indians, dead settlers / the frames of lost houses / left behind in the dust of the depression” (John Newlove, Ride Off Any Horizon)

Canadian writers have, for decades, written about our connection with the land. Here is a handful of books by Saskatchewan authors that remind us of our reliance and interrelationship with the land beneath our feet. Many of these authors have written more than one book; check your local library or bookstore for additional titles.

W.O. Mitchell, Who Has Seen the Wind (Prairie boy’s initiation into the mysteries of life)
Farley Mowat, Owls in the Family (a young boy’s pet menagerie grows out of control with the addition of two cantankerous pet owls)
Sinclair Ross, As For Me and My House (classic novel of small town life during the Depression)
Barbara Sapergia, Dry (speculative fiction about farming on the Prairies)
Wallace Stegner, Wolf Willow (Stegner’s childhood memories)

Laurel Archer, Northern Saskatchewan Canoe Trips (a guide to 15 wilderness rivers)
Sharon Butala, The Perfection of the Morning (memoir of leaving a promising academic career to marry a cattle rancher in southwest Saskatchewan)
Allan Casey, Lakeland (the rich culture and unsung splendour of Canada’s lake country)
Trevor Herriot, River in a Dry Land (an evocative look at the inhabitants and the land of the Qu’Appelle Valley)
Robin & Arlene Karpan, Saskatchewan’s Best Hikes and Nature Walks
Courtney Milne, Saskatchewan: The Luminous Landscape (photographs accompanied by personal notes and stories)
Candace Savage, Prairie: A Natural History (comprehensive, non-technical guide to the biology and ecology of the prairies)
Maggie Siggins, Revenge of the Land (a century of greed, tragedy and murder on a Saskatchewan farm)

What other books or authors would you include on this list?

“in april, then, you come to me in lilac / fall on my cheek like warm rain / take my hair like gentle wind / call me to lie down in fragrance.” (Dave Margoshes, Season of Lilac)

Tuesday 11 October 2011

EcoSask News, October 11, 2011

Native Prairie Speaker Series, October 19
The Native Prairie Speaker Series of the Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan will hold its October events in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 19.

12:10-12:50 pm: The Conservation Implications of Chronic Wasting Disease in Prairie Elk, Dr. Ryan Brook, Room 129, Physics Building, University of Saskatchewan

7-8 pm: The Butcher Bird: What is happening with the Prairie Loggerhead Shrike?, Andy Didiuk, Palace Theatre, Western Development Museum

Prairie Biodiversity, Greg Fenty, October 20
The Saskatoon Nature Society presents a talk by Greg Fenty on Biodiversity in Saskatchewan on Thursday, October 20, at 7:30 pm in Room 106, Biology Building, University of Saskatchewan.

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips, October 22 & 23
The Saskatoon Nature Society organizes regular field trips.

Join RASC astronomy club members to view celestial objects through their scopes on Saturday, October 22, from 7 pm until late (call 966-6429 for details).

Look for migrating waterfowl at Radisson and Redberry Lakes and then drive to the Hafford communiplex for their fall supper (optional) on Sunday, October 23, from 1 to 9 pm. Meet at the Tourist Information Centre at the north end of Avenue C. Call 373-2872 for further information.

Waste Reduction Week, October 17-23
Celebrate Waste Reduction Week from October 17 to 23. This year’s theme is Too Good to Waste, conveying an appreciation for the richness and beauty of our diverse world and the importance of working toward ecological sustainability by conserving resources and curbing wasteful practices.

What we can do:
Buy environmentally-preferable products
Join the Recycle My Cell Student Challenge
Find out where you can recycle everything from antifreeze to wood

Carpool Week, October 17-21
Share a ride with a neighbour or a co-worker during Carpool Week. Road Map
Saskatoon encourages commuters to consider using the carpool-matching service provided at Participate in one of the Carpool Week activities and you could be eligible to win some great prizes (iPad, Kindle, GPS navigation systems, fuel cards).

Raj Patel, How to Feed the World, October 25
Raj Patel, the author of Stuffed and Starved, will be speaking about real solutions to international food shortages and inequality at the University of Saskatchewan 2011 Whelen Visiting Lecture on Tuesday, October 25 at 7 pm in the Adam Ballroom, Delta Bessborough Hotel.

Admission is free but seating is limited so arrive early. A public reception and book signing will follow the talk.

Native Prairie Restoration/Reclamation Workshop: Bridging the Gap, February 8-9, 2012
Take advantage of the Early Bird Registration for the Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan’s Native Prairie Restoration/Reclamation Workshop: Bridging the Gap in Saskatoon on February 8-9, 2012. Workshop information is available on the SK PCAP website.

Craik Eco Centre in the News
A Saskatoon StarPhoenix article profiles the Solar Garden restaurant at the Craik Eco Centre.

Westworld Saskatchewan magazine talks to some of the people who live and work at Craik Eco Centre.

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature. Email if you have news or events that you would like us to include.

Visit EcoFriendly Sask's Calendar page for a more complete list of upcoming events.

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

Tuesday 4 October 2011

EcoSask News, October 4, 2011

Design Regina, October 5
Contact Design Regina for information about the Design Regina Citizen’s Circle on Sustainable Building that is scheduled for Wednesday, October 5 at 7 pm.

Colours of Fall Walk, October 10
Gather at the Meewasin Valley Centre on Monday, October 10 at 2 pm to take a stroll along the riverbank with a Meewasin interpreter. Children are invited to create an autumn leaf collage using leaves they’ve collected along the river bank. Call 665-6888 to pre-register. Program cost is $2.00.

Decade of Biodiversity, SES Enviro Meeting, October 12
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society is hosting a talk by Dr. Branimir Gjetvaj on “The Decade on Biodiversity: A Saskatchewan Perspective” on Wednesday, October 12 at 7 pm at the Cliff Wright Branch Library. Dr. Gjetvaj, an environmental photographer, will present an audiovisual show documenting biodiversity hot spots in Saskatchewan, protected through the work of the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). A NCC representative will provide a short overview of NCC work in the province.

Whooping Crane Outing, October 15
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society in a search for any reported whooping cranes within 100 km. of the city. Bring a lunch and meet at the Kinsmen Park parking lot across from the Mendel Art Gallery. This is a full-day event from 8 am to 5 pm, Saturday, October 15. Contact Michael Williams at 242-5383 for additional information.

Canada Organic Week, October 15-22
Celebrate Canada’s organic farmers and producers by participating in the Organic Breakfast Challenge. Plan an organic breakfast, then take a photo or write up the recipe, and enter to win a basket of organic goodies.

Carbon Cup Contest
Enter a draw for a free assessment of the carbon footprint of your business, restaurant, farm, office. The Carbon Cup Contest is sponsored by the Saskatchewan Research Council. The carbon assessment is worth up to $25,000 and includes advice on how to reduce your emissions and improve the energy efficiency of your buildings and operations. Send a short email to before November 14 explaining why your business wants to track its footprint to be entered in the draw. (via Suzanne – thanks!)

Embracing Nature Art Exhibit
Embracing Nature, an exhibit of traditional Chinese landscape paintings by Ligong Kong, is on display in The Gallery, Frances Morrison Library, from September 28 to October 27. The paintings express the close relationship between people and nature that is a common theme in Chinese landscape painting.

Wind Energy Projects in Canada
Canada almost doubled its wind energy capacity in 2011. There are 5 wind farm developments in Saskatchewan. Check the map for information about all the sites across Canada.

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature. Email if you have news or events that you would like us to include.

Visit EcoFriendly Sask's Calendar page for a more complete list of upcoming events.

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