Thursday 25 February 2016

Teaching Sustainable Consumption

“A lot of people know that we are consuming more than the planet can sustain, at least at a basic level, but they don’t know what to do about it. If we want to see changes in behaviour, then that has to begin in the classroom.” 

Kristen Hargis is a Master’s student in the Educational Foundations program at the University of Saskatchewan. Two books she read as an undergraduate influenced her thinking about consumption. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical encouraged critical thinking, while another, Serve God, Save the Planet, demonstrated that material downscaling could lead to healthier lives.

“I really started noticing the massive amount of overconsumption all around me,” Kristen says. “I went into my Master’s wanting to figure out how we can get to the point where we don't need to add “sustainable” to consumption because all consumption, or at least most of it, is sustainable.”

Teaching Sustainable Consumption 
Kristen’s research is nestled within a much larger project called the Sustainability and Education Policy Network (SEPN), which is based at the University of Saskatchewan. SEPN is a network of researchers and organizations advancing sustainability in education policy and practice across Canada. It is the first large-scale, national-level research collaboration to collect and analyze comparable data at all levels of education with the goal of enabling educational change for a more sustainable future.

Kristen’s thesis will assess how faculty conceptualize sustainable consumption themselves and within their classroom, how sustainable consumption is taught and how those methods developed, and whether sustainability policies are influencing actual teaching practices.

“The chief aim of this study is not to prove a hypothesis but to provide a deeper understanding of how sustainable consumption has been defined and taught within the classroom,” Kristen says. 

Reasons for Consumption 
“Consumption is more convoluted than individual acts of consumption or production,” Kristen says, “and I believe that consumer education should reflect these complexities.” Her educational research literature review produced four different reasons for consumption.

Functional: Functional consumption fulfills innate human needs for things like food, water, and shelter. “This category also addresses healthy food consumption,” Kristen says. “A wholesome diet, that includes local produce and plant-based rather than animal-based products and that doesn’t include processed foods or eating more than one’s daily energy requirements, has environmental and human benefits in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, relieving pressure on biodiversity, and improving the overall health of the individual.”

Sociological: The sociological role of consumption focuses on the purpose that consumption has in our lives as individuals and as members of social groups. This includes institutional considerations (e.g., race, gender, and class) as well as how people talk about consumption and any power struggles that might be involved. “For example, when white people move to the suburbs to avoid living beside people of a different race, they must drive even further, using more fossil fuels in the form of gasoline, to get to work, go shopping, etc.,” Kristen says.

Psychological: There are psychological reasons why we as individuals consume, such as identity, emotions, status competition, and activism, and these affect our choices. “We buy certain clothes and accessories to fit into the identity that we want,” Kristen says. “For example, environmentalists are often associated with hiking clothes, backpacks, tents, etc. This can include a wide variety of identities and environmentalists aren’t exempt.”

Economic: The economic role of consumption considers the implications for consumers who are inevitably linked to a market system. “Buying greener products has been suggested as a way to battle over-consumption,” Kristen says. “But green consumerism, while not quintessentially harmful, sanctions environmentally conscious consumption without considering consumption levels.”

Consumption in the Classroom 
Kristen’s literature review found numerous studies on sustainability and sustainable development in general. Very few, however, focused on sustainable consumption and even fewer had a higher education focus.

There are two interesting accounts of how individual teachers have introduced the topic, one at the high school level and the other at the primary school level.

Bill Bigelow brought a soccer ball into the classroom and asked his students to observe it closely and write about it. “Made in Pakistan was stenciled in small print on the ball, but very few students thought that fact significant enough to include in their descriptions. However, these three tiny words offered the most important clue to the human lives hidden in ‘just a soccer ball’ – a clue to the invisible Pakistanis whose hands had crafted the ball sitting in the middle of the classroom.”

Helen Carida looked at primary pupils’ habits and behaviours in Greece. “Sustainable consumption is one of the most recent challenges in the field of education,” Carida says. “Specifically, the aim of this article is to identify the pupils' sustainable and unsustainable practices, considering their personal dimensions of everyday living, and giving a particular meaning to consumer education in Greece.” 

Teaching Methods 
Kristen points out that it’s not enough to understand how faculty conceptualize consumption. You also have to examine their teaching methods. “For example, if sustainable consumption is only taught by referring to facts, the subjective message may be that learning facts is all that is required to address and understand sustainable consumption,” Kristen says. “If active components are infused throughout teaching about sustainable consumption (e.g. experiential learning, problem-based learning), the subjective meaning could be that we must act, not just listen and learn.”

It Starts in the Classroom 
Kristen believes that a lot of people know that we are consuming more than the planet can sustain but don’t know what to do about it. “If we want to see changes in behaviour, then that has to begin in the classroom,” Kristen says.

“It should also be noted that when I talk about changes in behaviour, I don’t just mean individual behaviour changes because those are not enough. I mean having an informed citizenry that knows how to apply appropriate political pressure to see real systemic and structural changes happening within society.”

Additional Resources 
Articles & Websites 
The Story of Stuff
Why I’m Buying Nothing for a Year
Yes, You Recycle. But Until You Start Reducing, You’re Still Killing the Planet
REI Closing on Black Friday for First Time
Don’t Buy This Jacket - Patagonia
Ikea Wants You to Stop Throwing Away Your Ikea Furniture
What is Degrowth? Envisioning a Prosperous Descent
New Business Aims to Change the Way We Thrift Shop

The Story of Stuff: The Impact of Overconsumption on the Planet, Our Communities and Our Health – And How We Can Make It Better, Annie Leonard
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Naomi Klein

Tuesday 23 February 2016

EcoSask News, February 23, 2016


Upcoming Events
Set the Agenda & Leap Forward, Feb. 29
Climate Friendly Zone and Climate Justice Saskatoon are hosting a come-and-go social from 7-9 pm, Feb. 29. Activities will be designed to get participants thinking about how they can work together to bring about change in Saskatoon.

Roof Ice Damming, Mar. 2 
David Fetsch, Sun Ridge Residential, will discuss the prevention of roof ice dams at the Mar. 2 breakfast meeting of the SK Energy Management Task Force.

Project Wet, Mar. 5 (Regina)
SaskOutdoors is offering a Project Wet workshop in Regina on Mar. 5.

Wildlife Society AGM, Mar. 5 (Regina)
The Saskatchewan Chapter of The Wildlife Society is holding its AGM in Regina on Mar. 5. There is a student conclave on Mar. 13.

Winter Camping Skills Weekend, Mar. 5-6
SaskOutdoors will teach the skills needed to get outdoors in the winter on Mar. 5-6 at Blackstrap Provincial Park.

Sustainable Procurement Workshop, Mar. 8
The Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce is offering a sustainable procurement workshop to interested businesses and organizations from 11:30 am – 1:30 pm, Mar. 8. Seating is limited so register early.

Wildlife Rehab Volunteer Orientation, Mar. 12
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan is offering a volunteer orientation session on Mar. 12 from 1-3 pm in Saskatoon. Additional sessions are being planned for other centres around the province; check the WRSOS website for additional information.

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


January/February Action Grants - $7,600 for 7 projects
EcoFriendly Sask offered the following grants in January/February 2016:
Wild About Saskatoon - $5,000 to support the 2016 NatureCity Festival
Food Waste Coalition, Saskatoon - $400 to purchase the viewing rights to Just Eat It
Grade 8 class, St. George School - $500 for supplies for their Student Action for a Sustainable Future projects
John Paul II Key Club, North Battleford - $500 for supplies for planting trees in and around the Battlefords
Elysium Music and Arts Foundation Inc. - $200 for signage to promote environmental awareness at Ness Creek Campsite
Marion Graham Outdoor Club - $500 for two pairs of skis for students who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to get outdoors and develop a stronger connection with the planet
Saskatoon Cycles - $500 to promote alternate means of transportation by assisting with expenses for IceCycle and author presentation on Feb. 27

Janna Perry is investigating the feasibility of setting up a native prairie plant nursery in Saskatoon and asks people to complete her survey.

Two new apps for citizen scientists:
The NatureHood app is intended to help high school students identify and map wildlife sightings.
The YardMap Network is designed to help professional scientists and interested individuals collect and map data about local bird habitats.

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 16 February 2016

EcoSask News, February 16, 2016

cross that bridge when you get to it

Upcoming Events
Ecological Literacy
Elizabeth Bekolay will be offering a free course on Ecological Literacy: Reconnecting with the Land on the first Saturday morning of each month. Space is limited; register in advance.

Seeds of Time, Feb. 25
The Saskatoon Food Council will be showing the film, Seeds of Time, at 7 pm, Feb. 25, at Station 20 West. The film tells the story of Cary Fowler’s efforts to protect biodiversity and food security.

Backyard Composting Workshop, Feb. 26 (Regina)
University of Regina Team Compost is offering a composting workshop on Feb. 26.

Confessions of a Wildlife Photographer Webinar, Feb. 26
Wildlife photographer, Kerri Martin, will discuss balancing her art with the wellbeing of the animals in the Confessions of a Wildlife Photographer webinar on Feb. 26.

Frostbike, Feb. 26 & 27
Tom Babin is a Calgary reporter who got tired of sitting in traffic and started riding his bike to work all year long. He is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Biking and will be speaking and signing his book at McNally Robinson Booksellers at 7 pm, Feb. 26, and as part of Ice Cycle on Feb. 27.

Ice Cycle, Feb. 27
Saskatoon Cycles is hosting Ice Cycle, the coldest bike ride on the planet, at 5:30 pm, Feb. 27. Tom Babin, author of Frostbike, will be speaking at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market following the ride.

Making the LEAP: Seth Klein and Next Up Regina, Feb. 27/28
Next Up Saskatchewan is holding a conference on Building Skills for Social and Environmental Justice in Regina on Feb. 27 and 28 prior to establishing Next Up Regina.

Seth Klein, co-founder and director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, will be speaking on Making the LEAP: Transforming Our Nations to Care for the Earth and One Another on Feb. 27. The talk is free; everyone is welcome to attend.

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


Save the PFRA Pastures
Trevor Herriot says we have one last chance to save our PFRA community pastures. Ssend a letter now to your federal government representatives.

Have Your Say in Saskatoon’s Future
A plan that will determine land use around Saskatoon for the next 60 years is going forward for approval this month. Candace Savage (Wild About Saskatoon, Northeast Swale Watchers) is urging everyone to complete the online survey set up by the Saskatoon North Partnership for Growth before the Feb. 29 deadline.

Candace suggests considering the following points:“The reserve along the river should be wider, with public access throughout. Similarly, the conservation/drainage areas need to be more generous, including the corridors that connect the networks. This will improve their function both for water management and biodiversity. The big park space around Wanuskewin, on both sides of the river, is an excellent idea and deserves support. The plan builds in the idea of ‘complete communities,’ with jobs close to where people live, another plus. There's lots more to be said – is there no end to sprawl? no way to protect native prairie? – but we'll leave the rest to you. Might be the most important ten minutes of your week!" 

Useful tips to help you live waste-free. 

Our current system of recycling doesn’t make sense - environmentally or economically.

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 11 February 2016

Seedy Saturday: Saving, Sharing & Protecting our Seedy Heritage

Saving Seeds
Our grocery stores are jam-packed with food. And yet, when you look around, you realize that there isn’t all that much variety. In fact, 75% of our food comes from 17 plant and 5 animal species.

There are some absolutely gorgeous varieties of heritage tomatoes (Pink Boar, Spudakee, Absinthe), but you won’t find them in any supermarket. If you want to try growing them yourself, you’ll have to hunt for seeds because 10 corporations control more than 73% of the global seed market and they’re selecting varieties for yield, uniformity, and performance – not flavour or beauty.

Saskatoon Seed Library 
Across North America, gardeners are realizing that if we want to protect the biodiversity of our fruits and vegetables, we’ll have to start saving and sharing the seeds ourselves. Saskatoon became part of this movement with the establishment of the Saskatoon Seed Library in 2015.

Seed libraries are designed to share regionally adapted, heritage seeds. You’re given some seeds, grow them, save seeds at harvest time, and pass them along. In the process, you expand the varieties of seed that are available, increase plant resilience, and build a local gardening community.

In its first year, the Saskatoon Seed Library grew 5 heritage vegetable varieties that are adapted to our local growing environment. They dried and saved the seeds and will be offering them to new gardeners and seed savers at Saskatoon’s Seedy Saturday on February 27 at Station 20 West.

For more information, take a look at the Saskatoon Seed Library’s Facebook page. To join the Library, email them at

Seedy Saturday: Coming Soon to a Community Near You 
Seedy Saturday/Sunday is a great opportunity to support local producers and pick up seeds to grow in your garden this summer. Here’s the lineup for Saskatchewan:

Churchbridge – Feb. 20
Estevan – Mar. 13
Humboldt – Feb. 28
Indian Head – Feb. 27
Moose Jaw – Mar. 6
North Battleford – Apr. 2
Prince Albert – Apr. 23
Regina – Mar. 5
Saskatoon Seedy Saturday – Feb. 27 (Station 20 West)
Saskatoon Seedy Sunday – Mar. 20 (Saskatoon Farmers’ Market)
Yorkton – Mar. 12

Seedy Saturday Presentations
In addition to choosing seeds, Seedy Saturday/Sunday is a chance to connect with community groups and pick up useful information. Don’t miss the following presentations:

Regina (Mar. 5)
Planning Your Garden
Choosing Your Seed
Improving Your Soil

Saskatoon (Feb. 27 at Station 20 West) 
11 am – Karen Farmer, Saskatoon Seed Library: How You Can Get Involved
12 pm – Michael Molaro, Rooftop and Container Gardening
1 pm – Brit MacDonald, Community Greenhouse Project
2 pm – Glenda Abbott, Wanuskewin Indigenous Agriculture
3 pm – Andrea Desroches, 10 Reasons You Should Go WWOOF'ing

Seeds of Time, Feb. 25 (Saskatoon) 
The Saskatoon Food Council will be showing the film, Seeds of Time, at 7 pm, Feb. 25, at Station 20 West. The film tells the story of Cary Fowler’s efforts to protect biodiversity and food security. Fowler was the Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust from 2005-2012 and was instrumental in establishing the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Photo Credit: Initial photo is from the Saskatoon Seed Library's Facebook page

Tuesday 9 February 2016

EcoSask News, February 9, 2016

river ice reflections

Upcoming Events
Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb. 12-15 
Join the Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb. 12-15, and help create a snapshot of where the birds are in North America.

Bird Banding & Citizen Naturalists, Feb. 15 (Regina)
Join Nature Regina at 7:30 pm, Feb. 15, for a discussion about banding birds and how we as citizen naturalists can help to provide a link between field observations and the gathering of data.

Family Week at Beaver Creek, Feb. 15-19
Enjoy winter walks, a craft and information about owls at the Beaver Creek Interpretive Centre from Feb. 15-19.

Electric Vehicle Movement, Feb. 16 
Kent Rathwell, Sun Country Highway, will discuss electric vehicles and filling stations at 7 pm, Feb. 16, at the Frances Morrison Library as part of the Sustainable Speaker Series.

Sustainability through Disruption, Feb. 18 
Kent Rathwell and his wife run bird seed company Sun Country Farms, Saskatchewan’s first zero-emission company and installs electric vehicle charging stations. He’ll be speaking at the Saskatoon Nature Society’s monthly meeting at 7:30 pm, Feb. 18.

Field Trips
Young Naturalists 
Mar. 12, 1-3 pm – Great Horned Owl Ecology
Apr. 9, 1-2:30 pm – Birdhouse Workshop
Space is limited; register early to avoid disappointment.

Other Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
Feb. 13, 1-3 pm – Weir and City Park Birding
Feb. 27, 9 am–5 pm – Gardiner Dam Field Trip
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

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


SK’s First Bullfrog-Powered Hotel
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and Conference Centre has become the first hotel in Saskatchewan to be powered by Bullfrog Power. Bullfrog Power will ensure that all the power used in the conference and meeting rooms as well as the three Hilton HHonors floors comes from clean, green sources.

Single-Stream Recycling is a Pain in the Glass 
a quarter of single-stream recycling is hauled to the dump due to cross-contamination. Glass represents roughly 40 percent of landfilled recyclables”

Biodiversity in Vancouver 
“The Vancouver Park Board has voted unanimously in favour of a biodiversity strategy that will see 25 hectares of ‘natural area’ in the city restored or enhanced by 2020.” Restoration projects are designed to protect 20 species that have been designated at risk.

Energy Storage
A Welsh home has installed the UK’s first Tesla Powerwall. Solar-power energy not used during the day will be stored and become available in the evening when the family is at home.

Powered by Poo 
A Welsh dairy farm is creating enough biogas from manure to power 6,000 homes. The farmer insists he is only going to use waste to create power rather than switching from food to fuel crops. "We're here to make cheese, and if we can make power out of what was once waste, that's great. And there is plenty of muck to go round." 

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 4 February 2016

Happy Birthday, Saskatoon Zoo Society!

The Saskatoon Zoo Society is 40 years old!

The Society, a non-profit organization, was founded in 1976 to provide educational opportunities based around the wildlife at the Saskatoon Zoo. “If you’re going to keep animals behind bars,” explains Greg Fenty, the Society’s Education Coordinator, “you want people to learn about them.”

Today, the Saskatoon Zoo Society and its volunteers conduct more than 500 programs per year with over 30,000 participants. Programs range from pre-school sessions to summer camps. There are programs for school classes and the Saskatoon Young Naturalists, co-sponsored by the Saskatoon Nature Society, offers outings and activities for 5-11 year olds. (A 2011 interview with Greg Fenty provides additional information about the programs the Society offers.)

Volunteer Power 
With only a small number of staff, the Zoo Society credits its success to its enthusiastic volunteers who fill a variety of roles:

Special Event Volunteers help with selling tickets, parking, food preparation, and supervising activities at special events, such as Family Day at the Zoo and the Zoo Run.

Volunteer Interpreters share informative displays with the public and have some opportunities to handle the socialized animals.

Members are needed to fill a variety of positions on the Board of Directors. They’re elected at the Annual General Meeting in March of each year.

If you are interested in volunteering this summer, register now to attend the Volunteer Orientation session on May 25, 2016.

Financial Support 
One of the easiest and most valuable ways to support the Saskatoon Zoo Society is by becoming a member. You’ll be able to visit the Zoo for free and will receive a member’s discount for Society-sponsored programs.

You can raise funds and stay fit by participating in the Zoo Run, a 5-kilometer fun run or 2.5 kilometer walk around the park. Funds raised support the Society’s environmental education programs. The 2016 Zoo Run will be held on April 24

A third option is to Adopt-a-Critter.

Environmental Leadership
A recent study indicates that zoos do far more than just entertain us. They also raise awareness of biodiversity and how to protect animals and their habitats:

“For the first time, there is strong evidence that many people leave these attractions not just with greater awareness but also a better understanding of biodiversity and conservation …. the challenge for zoos and aquariums now is how to use these findings to directly improve the conservation of biodiversity, because it’s important to remember that an increase in knowledge does not necessarily lead to a change in behavior. The next equally important step should be to build on this knowledge to promote pro-conservation behaviour and social change.” 

Zoos also serve as role models for environmental sustainability and promote wildlife conservation. For example:

The Calgary Zoo helped bring black-footed ferrets back to Canada and is leading research on Canada’s only remaining black-tailed prairie dog population.

The Toronto Zoo plans to use animal waste to fuel a 500 Kw biogas facility.

The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney, BC, invites the public to become citizen scientists by sharing information and photos of the species living in the local waters.

The Veterinary Medical Centre at the Oregon Zoo has received LEED Gold certification.

The Santa Barbara Zoo uses solar panels to power the gorilla bedrooms and giraffe barn and is working with partner organizations to protect endangered species, such as the California condor.

Happy Birthday 
Happy Birthday, Saskatoon Zoo Society! And thank you for the important work that you are doing in our community. We look forward to seeing what you will accomplish in the next 40 years.

Photo Credits: Saskatoon Zoo Society and Shelley Ballard McKinlay

Tuesday 2 February 2016

EcoSask News, February 2, 2016


Upcoming Events
Vote for Wetlands - World Wetlands Day, Feb. 2 
Wetlands filter our air and water, reduce the impacts of droughts and flood, store vast amounts of greenhouse gases, and provide wildlife habitat. Unfortunately, according to Ducks Unlimited, Saskatchewan has lost 40,000 acres of wetland habitat (an area larger than the city of Regina) since the last provincial election.

Ducks Unlimited Canada is urging Saskatchewan residents to ask their candidates in the upcoming provincial election what they will do to protect Saskatchewan’s remaining wetlands. provides additional information.

Grid-Tied Solar Electric Installations, Feb. 3
Brent Veitch, Rock Paper Sun, will discuss the current status of grid-tied solar electric installations at the Feb. 3 breakfast meeting of the SK Energy Management Task Force.

Recovering from our Addiction to Stuff, Feb. 6
Recovering from our Addiction to Stuff will be held from 12:30 – 4 pm, Feb. 6, at St. Martin’s United Church. They will show The Story of Stuff video, discuss how to live a low-stuff diet in our homes and churches, and host a recycling display.

Compost Coach Training Camp, Feb. 20 & 21 
A two-day training camp for people interested in becoming a compost coach will be held in Saskatoon, Feb. 20 & 21. Participants will learn advanced composting techniques and be ready to help other Saskatoon residents start composting.

Duck Mountain Ski Loppet, Feb. 26-28
Join SaskOutdoors and the Kamsack Ski Club at the Duck Mountain Ski Loppet Weekend Feb. 26-28.

Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation, Feb. 27 & 28 
The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council is offering a course for novice wildlife rehabilitators in Saskatoon on Feb. 27-28. There will be lots of hands-on activities.

Passive House Design & Construction, Mar. 31-Apr. 16 
Canadian Passive House Institute West is offering a 10-day passive house design & construction course in Saskatoon from March 31 to April 16.

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

red-winged blackbird (female)

Blue Dot Regina 
Regina City Council wants more time to study a declaration recognizing people’s right to a healthy environment following a petition from Blue Dot Regina, part of the nation-wide David Suzuki Foundation project.

Centre for Climate Risk Reduction on the Prairies 
The University of Winnipeg and the International Institute for Sustainable Development have established the Centre for Climate Risk Reduction on the Prairies. The Centre will provide research and advice to government, businesses, and community members to help them “identify and anticipate risks to increase community resilience to climate change.” One of their first projects is an atlas illustrating the Prairies’ possible future climate.

The Disneyfication of Canada’s National Parks
“Canada’s world-famous national parks, Mr. Van Tighem says, are no longer valued for what they were intended – but are increasingly being treated as ‘raw material to be commodified into a bundle of Disneyesque visitor attractions and marketing packages.’ It is as if ‘nature was no longer enough,’ laments the former superintendent.” 

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).