The Urban Aboriginal Community Kitchen Garden Project

A lot of people depend on the garden 52 weeks of the year–because even if we’re not growing anything, they come out to get a piece of nature, see the eagles, listen to the coyotes howl, have lunch, get connected with themselves and go back home–Mary Holmes, Program Coordinator.

I’m currently working on a multi-media package about this half-acre of fertile land at the UBC farm. The project aims to shrink the distance between the garden and the grocery store, placing special emphasis on celebrating aboriginal traditions around food within an urban community.

I thought I’d post up this short overview by Lemongrass media, as I think it does a great (and gorgeous!) job of representing the project.

By the end of the week, Lewis and I will be adding to the conversation with a text story, a slideshow, a video and a special secret menu.


How to think about Climate change: discussing the discussion

It’s no surprise to hear all-encompassing statements about the press, as if it were a monolithic blob of “media.” One such claim is as follows: when it comes to climate change, journalists “aren’t doing anything to / are doing a poor job of” making sense of this contentious conversation.

So, is this true? Are meta-conversations about our very understanding of climate change actually absent or useless? To explore the situation, I’ve been collecting headlines since mid-March. Below, you’ll find recent attempts by many reporters, from publications big and small, to frame the discussion.

An important caveat: I have not read the stories at the bottom of this post, nor I am not actively endorsing all the stories I have read. I’m collecting these stories for a project I’m currently working on, and I just thought it’d be useful to bring a sample to the fore for the rest of you.

As I make my way down this growing list, I’ll try to provide the gist of, or  interesting points from, each media text.

Climate Change in the Headlines

Photo by Flickr user Rusty Stewart

“If the things we report and the way we report them serve only to confuse people or frighten them or anger them, we diminish their understanding of the great issues of the day.”--Michael Enright, CBC journalist

How well have journalists covered climate change? (TVO, The Agenda with Steve Paikin)

Gist: I watched this hour-long panel and I think it does provide a decent enough pan of the landscape.  Its strength is that it brings together academically-anchored as well as practicing journalists, a blogger, a scientist, a foreign policy advisor, etc, so it’s not navel-gazing. Its limitation is that it’s typical of many televised discussions. They are, by format, somewhat stilted and privileging of  breadth over depth. Still, host Steve Paikin does raise some interesting questions, and this is a good starting off point for further conversation.

Nearly half of Americans believe climate change threat is exaggerated (

[article] Excerpt: “He said the scientists who worked on the IPCC report were woefully outmanoeuvred in PR by business groups which have the funds to employ legions of lobbyists and communications experts. “It’s not a fair fight,” he said. “The IPCC is just a tiny secretariat next to this giant denier machine.”

Climate change science more certain than ever (The Turlock Journal)

[Short article] Gist: Anthony L. Westerling, an associate professor of environmental engineering and geography at UC, contrasts the decrease in American concern over climate change with the increase in certainty within the scientific community. The centerpiece of his text is the recently released report, “The Copenhagen Diagnosis: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science.” He concludes with a bulleted list of the report’s findings.

Scientists take another run at climate change (USA Today)

[News brief] Excerpt: “Eight Nobel-prize winning economists and scientists have joined more than 2,000 others in signing a letter today that urges the Senate to take swift action on climate change…”

Political ads: new weapon in US climate change war? (Reuters)

[Article] Excerpt: “Big business is now free to blitz the airwaves to attack politicians who support action against climate change, which could smother messages from environmentalists…”

“Environmental groups used to be able to get free media coverage by pitching stories to reporters. Now many journalists who wrote about those issues are gone, and the space available for coverage of the environment is shrinking…”

What’s the Proper Role of Individuals and Institutions in Addressing Climate (Huffington Post)

[article] Excerpt: “…despite the fact that these decisions are made by firms and individuals, government action is clearly key, because climate change is an externality, and it is rarely, if ever, in the self-interest of firms or individuals to take unilateral actions. That’s why the climate problem exists, in the first place. Voluntary initiatives — no matter how well-intended — will not only be insufficient, but insignificant relative to the magnitude of the problem…Whether conventional standards or market-based instruments are used, meaningful government regulation will be required.”

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Students chase sustainability: Commerce committee pushes for a greener curriculum at UBC

Trevor Wheatley, external director, steps up to the podium to moderate the industry panel

Trevor Wheatley, external director, steps up the podium to moderate the industry panel


This article was originally published in The Ubyssey

When Jennifer Matchett says things need to change, she means business.

Matchett is the co-director of the Commerce Undergraduate Society’s committee on sustainability. She is one of several students at the Sauder School of Business who want their curriculum to include more dialogue about environmental sustainability.

“We feel that the major players in any environmental movement are corporations,” said Matchett. “If they don’t change, nothing’s really going to change.”

Business students gathered on November 6 at the Liu Institute for Global Issues for the second annual Chasing Sustainability Conference. Along with guest speakers, they discussed strategies for going beyond “green-washing” and striving toward ecologically responsible businesses practices.

Brian Grant, an attendee and fourth-year accounting student, said he started thinking about ethical business practices after watching a hard-hitting documentary called The Corporation, which compares corporations to psychopaths.

“Nowadays, people are reacting to the fact that businesses have a bad rap,” said Grant.

Despite the crisp collars, neat ties and professional footwear, the event did not look like a usual conference.

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UBC seeks to tap rain as renewable resource

Posted by Fabiola Carletti on Oct 29th, 2009 and filed under Environment at

A sea of umbrellas at UBC

A sea of umbrellas at UBC

Curtis Ballard rushed to fasten plywood between parking curbs as rain cascaded down Wesbrook Mall. The water runoff streamed toward TRIUMF, the laboratory for particle and nuclear physics at UBC.

“The water outside eventually rose to our knees,” said Ballard, TRIUMF’s operations manager, who worked with personnel from the lab and the physical plant to clear catch basins and set up dewatering pumps.

Although the water from the flash flood seeped into offices and damaged flooring, the group’s work spared a nearby laser lab filled with high precision equipment. They now refer to it as the great flood of 2009.

Such temperamental tales become lore at the University of British Columbia, which sits on the outskirts of rainy Vancouver.

The project team behind Campus and Community Planning know the challenges of managing stormwater, but are also creating policy that may channel it into opportunity.

The planners are entering the final phase of drafting the UBC Vancouver Campus plan, the guiding document for the next 20 years of property development. Taping the copious amount of rainwater, a renewable resource, is finally on the agenda.

Read more…

So, this is Earth Day. And what have we done?


I, for one, am trying not to get upset. You know, I really could discuss any number of issues–the water shortage, the e-waste we dump into other countries, the food crisis, the desecration of fundamental ecosystems, the threat to honey bees, the disgusting amount of food we simply throw away each and every day–but you’ve heard it all before.

Today would be a good day to actually think about it. But, hey, if you don’t want to…that’s fine. You will definitely have to sometime.

I don’t want to be a cynic, but I don’t have anything overly hopeful to say today. Earth day isn’t even trending on twitter. We go insane on Christmas, Halloween and Valentines day. Even St. Patricks day (which most people just see as an excuse to get loaded on green beer) gets more attention that the one measley day on which we’re supposed to think about the living system that supports and endures us.

Since I don’t know quite know how to express what I’m feeling, I suppose I will just post some quotations by others who have said it better. Feel free to leave some of your favourites in the comments section.

Happy Earth Day, Earthlings.


We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. ~Native American Proverb

Economic advance is not the same thing as human progress. ~John Clapham, A Concise Economic History of Britain, 1957

I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. ~Elwyn Brooks White, Essays of E.B. White, 1977

In America today you can murder land for private profit. You can leave the corpse for all to see, and nobody calls the cops. ~Paul Brooks, The Pursuit of Wilderness, 1971

I have no doubt that we will be successful in harnessing the sun’s energy…. If sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago. ~Sir George Porter, quoted in The Observer, 26 August 1973

The packaging for a microwavable “microwave” dinner is programmed for a shelf life of maybe six months, a cook time of two minutes and a landfill dead-time of centuries. ~David Wann, Buzzworm, November 1990

The insufferable arrogance of human beings to think that Nature was made solely for their benefit, as if it was conceivable that the sun had been set afire merely to ripen men’s apples and head their cabbages. ~Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac, États et empires de la lune, 1656

Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money. ~Cree Indian Proverb

It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.  ~W. Edwards Deming

Join the Green Party! 10 tips on how to make your next fiesta eco-friendly


My quirky friend Mark

My name is Fabiola Carletti and I have a problem: I am severely afflicted with chronic-hostess syndrome. I thoroughly enjoy inviting hordes of people over to my house to eat, drink, schmooze, sing, dance, and (eventually) go home.

Last summer–for a “choose your occasion” party–I instructed guests to ignore the dictatorial calendar and dress up for their favourite holiday. Jasmin, celebrating Mother’s day, waltzed in with a faux-belly. Jeff, in a red shirt and wings, hoped to make some Valentine’s Day magic. Mark showed up in a white plastic one-piece zip-up suit . . . to the bafflement of us all.

As the doorbell continued to ring, revellers streamed in, celebrating everything from Christmas to Mardi Gras. I beamed, adjusting the crown of plastic flowers on my head and modelling my leaf-print dress. “I’m celebrating Earth Day” I explained.

The next day I forced heaps of waste into a big black garbage bags. Every imaginable surface had been covered in plastic cups, burnt-out sparklers and Styrofoam plates. As I flung my Earth Day wreath into the trash, the irony began to percolate. A morbid thought occurred to me: I would probably decompose before most of the plastic remnants of my party. Yikes.

Although I consider myself a nascent environmentalist, I realized then that I was making unconscious exceptions for a whole lot of “special occasions”. I am proud to say that at my recent birthday party I implemented several of the suggestions you will soon read. People responded incredibly well!

Unfortunately, our cultural norms don’t pressure us to celebrate sustainably (yet). As students, we have a reputation for indulging ourselves in festive excess-but maybe we should re-think our expertise and party what we preach.

Here are ten ideas to get us started.

(1) Plan an eco-potluck

The good news is that we youngsters already tend to make our invites paper-free. Taking our virtual networking one step further, it’s really easy to organize the “who’s bringing what” online. If you’re not a fan of Facebook, there are funky alternatives that you can use for free. I highly recommend mypunchbowl –it’s easy-to-use, funky, and has a special application specifically designed for organizing potlucks.

Let’s get all the benefits straight: You don’t have to foot the entire grocery bill on your own or spend the whole day with your eye on the oven. You can gently steer your guests in the right direction by creating a list that casually drops words like “locally-purchased”, “organic”, “veggie”. And you don’t have to worry that you will have too much (or *gasp* too little) to eat because the more people that walk through the door, the more goodies will magically appear.

(2) Make “left-over love” take-home packages

Instead of automatically recycling (or tossing!) jars and containers, why not store them to re-use? Potlucks tend to produce leftovers but that doesn’t have to mean waste.  You may find yourself scooping potato salad into an empty relish jar and sending it home with a friend. Consider it a practical party favour, one that your friend will thank you for when they wake up hung-over and hungry.

Even If you didn’t pre-plan to package, many of your guests will have brought their potluck dishes in containers of all kinds. Instead of bringing the containers back home empty, encourage your guests to help themselves one last time.

(3) BYOC-Bring your own cup!

At parties, people go through drinks like it ain’t no thang. Questions like “where did I leave my rum & coke?” and “Is this even my cup?” are usually treated with a simple answer: “Cut your losses. Pour another!” Unfortunately, these losses add up — quickly! — and all the resources that went into producing the temporary chalices were for naught. What’s more, depending on the material, one-time use cups can take anywhere from 50-450 years to decompose!

Why not challenge your guests to bring their own funkiest cup/mug/bowl and pledge monogamy to it for the night? At the very least, it would make for much more interesting toasts. At the end of the night your guests will either wash their cups and take them home (less work for you!) or make impromptu donations to your kitchenware collection. I’d raise a glass to that.

(4) Encourage Public Transit. Failing that, Organize Car Pools.

This one is a no-brainer. I know I don’t need to tell you how our gas-guzzling habits harm the atmosphere. If public transit is a viable option, encourage your guests to take the better way. If they are worried that transit will stop running before your party does, or that no one is driving to their corner of the city, let them sleep over (if you can). As for designated drivers, ask if they are willing to give someone else a lift. Ask the riders you match with them to pitch in some money for gas. Fair deal all ‘round!

(But it goes without saying that you shouldn’t let anyone get behind the wheel drunk.)

(5) Dim the lights, baby, but brighten up with LED

Natural daylight would be great!–if we weren’t night-owls. Luckily, harsh lighting isn’t popular at parties anyway. To save energy, turn off or dim most lights. Make things visible with eco-friendly candles (ex: pure bee’s wax or soy-based) in creative candle holders (like some of those jars you saved). I’ve also seen the charming idea of placing long-stemmed candles in beer bottles -appropriately, at a hidden gem called The Green Room. It’s a quirky way to instantly reuse some of those empties.

If you’re nervous around flames, create a magical atmosphere with light-emitting-diode (LED) lights. When compared to conventional bulbs, these lights use 1/10th of the energy and last twice as long! Also, they do not get hot, so fret not about the fire hazard. LEDs are widely available at mainstream retailers (such as Canadian Tire) at reasonable prices.

(6) A little Flush goes a long way

One thing that’s virtually guaranteed at a party: a line-up to use the washroom. According to Environment Canada, every flush of the porcelain express uses 15-19 litres of water. That’s several litres that have been through the municipal filtration process, only to carry a relatively small stream of tinkle right back out to Lake Ontario.

If your toilet doesn’t have low flush mechanisms, there is an easy do-it-yourself method that anyone can complete in a few minutes! All you need is a plastic bottle, some sand/gravel, and a willingness to peak into your toilet tank. Step-by-step illustrated instructions are available at

While we’re being potty mouths, let’s think about the accompanying toilet paper. According to Adria Vasil (a.k.a Now Magazine’s Ecoholic) if each household in Canada switched one roll of toilet paper from virgin-bleached to recycled, we’d collectively save about 48,000 trees and prevent 4,500 kgs of air and water pollution — with ONE roll. How many rolls do you go through at a party? And, seriously, considering its simple function, why does anyone need extra-fancy three-ply “cashmere”-like toilet paper anyway?


(7) Recycle, Reduce, Rejoice!

At most parties, there’s one option when it comes to waste: a huge black garbage bag sitting somewhere out-of-the-way. Give your guests some better options by setting up clear recycling/compost/garbage containers in one area. Aim to make the garbage can the last resort. Go ahead and stick a sign on it (ex: “I’m on a diet: Please don’t feed me unless you absolutely have to”) or variation thereof. Also, designate a space for collecting empties and be sure to bring them back to the LCBO/Beer Store . You’ll not only earn a few bucks for your efforts but you’ll ensure that the materials make it to someone else’s happy hour.

(8) If they insist on bringing a gift for the host(ess)

Many people were raised with the idea that it’s polite to bring a small token of appreciation to the host. That said, they may try to figure out what you might like to receive. If they insist you give them clues, suggest one of the following items:

  • Locally produced/organic wine
  • Eco-friendly/fair trade substitutes of staples like chocolate or coffee
  • A small plant instead of a dead bouquet
  • Something unwrapped or responsibly wrapped in recycled paper/placed in a reusable gift bag/or even simply cloaked in newspaper! A surprise is a surprise, skip the bells and whistles.

You can insist that “re-gifting” and thrift gifts are cool by you. Something lightly-used may end up being exactly what you need.

(9) As long as you’re telling them to BYOC, why not show solidarity and DYOD?

Thanks for reading!! Love, the hostess with the mostess.

Thanks for reading!! Love, the hostess with the mostess.

Yes, doing your own dishes instead of using plastic can be a pain–but if Terry Fox could undertake a cross country marathon at the age of 22,  you can get your hands soapy. Offer up your own plates and utensils and you’ll be diverting a significant amount of waste from the landfill. If you are hand-washing try not to run the tap continuously; also, look for earth-friendly dish soap.

If using an electric dishwasher, make sure you’re doing full loads, and using the shortest cycle possible. Also check if you have a conserver/water-saver cycle. Long after the dishes are done, the feeling of accomplishment will linger.

(10) Use those captions for some grassroots awareness-raising
We all know the maxim that a picture is worth a thousand words. If you’ve had trouble explaining the benefits of going green, why not show people in images? If and when you post the party pictures–on Flickr or Facebook, etc–make sure you mention your eco-efforts in the captions. Drawing attention to these differences will get others thinking about how they can enjoy themselves more ethically.

You may be more inspiring than you think.

A version of this article was originally published in the February 2009 issue of MacMedia magazine