Straw-Free Quinte

Kirsty McCulloch started the initiative Straw Free Quinte + PEC to create a positive impact on the Quinte region’s environment, one (less) straw at a time.

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Trip to Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory (Twitter Class Assignment)

Students in the summer semester of the Trent-Loyalist journalism program went to Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory Monday. The tour was led by Dustin Brant, the Indigenous outreach officer at Loyalist College.

 

The day began with a visit to Quinte Mohawk School, which was built in 1977. The school goes from kindergarten to Grade 8 and provides daycare services as well.

 

The designated wetland is intended for students to “give back to Mother Nature,” Brant says. Here, they can learn about species that inhabit the ares in a classroom without walls. There are also gardens at the front of the school representing the “Three Sisters”: corn, beans and squash, which are seen as the sustaining crops.

 

The next stop was the band office, where elected councillors meet. Councils elections occur every two years. “There’s advantages and disadvantages to this,” says Chief’s Assitant, Charlie Maracle, mentioning that it takes about a year to get settled in and adjust to position.

 

The Christ Church, built in 1843, is open for any denomination to worship. Maracle explains that it’s the friendship between the British and Mohawks is what makes the church so special.

 

A national site of historic significance is found outside the church. Doctor Oronhyatekha was the first Indigenous Oxford scholar and a practicing physician in Frankford, then later Napanee and London, Ont.

 

The next stop was at a Longhouse. Events of all sorts, from funerals to gatherings, are practiced here.

 

The final stop was the water treatment plant. The plant runs under provincial guidelines, although is federally-funded, which means things take a long time to get done, Brant says.

 

“A lot of people who work in the community do it out of love and I don’t think they get the appreciation they deserve,” said Brant. He mentioned that over half the people working in the community are only making minimum wage and many of them serve important jobs.

Students had different takeaways to reflect on at the end of the trip.

 

 

 

How to See the World (and Make a Positive Impact!) on a Student Budget

Travelling while being a full-time student with part-time jobs, friends, family, and other social commitments all whilst surviving on a student budget certainly isn’t always the easiest of tasks.  But it’s also not impossible.

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Dublin, Ireland

I’m by no means a seasoned traveller, but I prefer to cultivate meaningful, cultural experiences when I do travel rather than opt for the all-inclusive resort scene. I do this through work-trade programs, such as WWOOF and Workaway.

WWOOF stands for WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and after registering for whichever country you’d like to visit, connects you directly to hosts of farms who take in travelers from all over the world. The general premise is that in exchange for your labour (typically no more than 5-6 hours a day with 1-2 days a week off, although this varies from host to host), you receive free accommodation and meals (some locations may ask you to contribute to food purchasing, but none of the locations I’ve volunteered on have). Workaway follows a similar suit, however, you’re able to browse through hosts from all countries before being required to purchase a membership and is not limited to just organic farms – it includes organizations, schools, building projects, child care, elderly care etc, and is in my opinion, the superior platform of the two.

Both platforms allow you to filter through potential hosts by keywords, availability dates, types of help, how many people can be accommodated there etc to help the user find the best match for them. Most hosts have a detailed profile containing what they expect from the traveler in terms of type and amount of work, relevant photos and reviews from previous people who have stayed there. Reading the reviews can be a critical step in choosing where you’d like to volunteer, as not every host treats their workers well. Once you find hosts who spark your interest, you can send them a message through the platform you’re using to see if you meet each other’s expectations. If all works out, all that’s left to do is co-ordinate travel dates and arrival information!

The place ticket tends to be the most expensive part of trips like these. I typically use flight-comparing websites (like Kayak) and monitor the flight I’m looking for over a period of time (on incognito or with a clear-browser history so the prices don’t go up) until it (ideally) drops. By doing this, I made it round trip Toronto to Dublin for about $600CAD and round trip Toronto to Hawaii for just over $500CAD.

If you find good hosts, the only real costs aside from plane tickets is any internal travel you wish to do during your time off and personal purchases. If you do some internal travel, perhaps venture somewhere for a weekend, I’ve found it to be the most cost-efficient to stay use AirBnB, Homestay, Couchsurfing, VRBO, or sometimes a good deal on a hostel.

So far, I’ve WWOOF’ed on a farm in Portugal, two farms in Ireland, and used Workaway for a farm in Molokai, HI, and have had only positive experiences. The opportunities received from choosing this method of travel are like no other you’d receive from a hotel or resort. Instead of only seeing what’s available to any tourist, you get the inside scoop from the locals. You get access to the hidden treasures, you receive a real cultural exchange, you meet amazing people and you have the opportunity to leave a real positive impact. While the work I’ve done on the four farms I’ve visited so far hasn’t always been easy, it’s always been worth it.

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A “tower” used for growing a variety of vegetables in one structure. I built several of these structures while in Portugal.

There’s also a lot of very accommodating hosts out there, so it’s been easy for me to travel as a vegan, which is often a concern. While I’ve always offered to provide or pay for my own meals/ingredients, the hosts I’ve had have been quick to give me everything I need (and some!). There are a fair number of farms and hosts out there that are also exclusively vegan, and I hope to attend one in the future.

Although my trips are few in number (for now), they are incredibly rich in experience. From rounding up herds of goats, to making homemade pizzas in a stone oven, to building towers, to planting and harvesting a variety of fruits and vegetables, to meeting other travelers from around the world, to getting lost in different cities, to bottle-feeding baby lambs, to building walkways, to planting banana trees, to sleeping in a hammock under the stars, to attending local festivals, to snorkeling in the ocean, to hiking through jungles, to sitting by a fire, to stargazing, to taking outdoor showers, to having no hot water, to being terrified of local insects, to sleeping in a treehouse, to starting mornings with the sunrise, I truly wouldn’t trade any of my experiences, even the unpleasant bits or times I was pushed out of my comfort zone, for the world. With each experience I’ve learned so much about the surrounding culture, community, relevant skills to the farm, and myself.

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Bahar, Olivia, (me), Jayson, Jesse. My ohana of Molokai, HI
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Katie, Victoria, Suzie, Hilary, (me)
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Martin, (me), Tyler, Michel, Ghanem

I urge anyone and everyone planning to travel in the future to try out a work-trade program like WWOOF or Workaway.

Plastic Pollution and Everyday Practices to Reduce It

In the last 6 decades, the mass production of plastic has increased substantially, and with that, we’re beginning to see its consequences.

Since the beginning of mass production, 8.3 billion metric tons of, primarily disposable, plastic has been produced and 6.3 billion metric tons of this has become plastic waste. Of this figure, only 5% has been properly recycled. and at least 10% ends up in the oceans. It doesn’t take a scientist to recognize that these are staggering numbers.

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Quick and Dirty Facts

  • Over 710 000 tons of plastic waste was dumped into the ocean this year (click here for running total)
  • It can take over 400 years for plastic to degrade, meaning most of what’s ever been produced still exists today. Only 12% of plastic produced has been incinerated.
  • If present trends continue, by 2050, there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills, making the weight of plastic in the ocean exceed that of fish.
  • More than 50% of sea turtles have consumed plastic
  • Plastic comprises 90% of all trash floating the earth’s surface
  • The average U.S citizen consumes 167 water bottles each year
  • Approximately 500 billion plastic bags are in used worldwide. More than one million are used every minute.
  • Over the last decade, we have produced more plastic than during the entire last century
  • There are more microplastics in the ocean than stars in the milky way

Stomach Contents of Dead Albatross

Impacts

  • Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium discovered people who eat seafood ingest up to 11, 000 microscopic pieces of plastic yearly
  • A Plymouth University study reported plastic was found in 1/3 of UK caught fish
  • It upsets the food chain. For example, plastic pollution impacts small organisms, such as plankton, and when these become poisoned, it affects larger animals that depend on them for food.
  • It contributes to groundwater pollution – most of the pollution affecting the oceans comes from plastics, negatively impacting marine life (and those who eat marine life)
  • The burning of plastic leads to air pollution because of the poisonous chemicals released
  • It’s hazardous to animals (ingesting, getting caught in plastic can holders)

What Can YOU do?

Some easy and tangible ways to reduce your plastic consumption include:

  • using reusable shopping bags and water bottles
  • refusing single-serving packaging, excess packaging, and disposable plastics such as straws (try a reusable straw instead)
  • carrying reusable utensils and bring containers when you’re eating on the go
  • bringing your own mug to coffee chops, smoothie shops, restraurance etc
  • choosing products packaged in cardboard or paper over plastic (such as laundry detergent)
  • purchasing products such as rice, pasta and cereal in bulk and filling a reusable bag
  • using cloth diapers on infants
  • making your own cleaning products (water and vinegar solutions make great all-purpose and glass cleaners)
  • using a razor with replaceable blades rather than a disposable set
  • purchasing bread that comes in paper or no bags
  • returning containers for berries, cherry tomatoes etc to farmer’s markets to be reused
  • ditching the plastic produce bags in grocery stores
  • using bar soap over liquid soap
  • using shampoo bars over shampoo bottles
  • using plastic free tooth paste/powder
  • using plastic free feminine hygiene products (ex cloth pads, diva cup, thinx)
  • making your own condiments
  • purchasing items that are plastic second-hand
  • repairing rather than replacing items

“Natural” vs “Organic” Food Labelling

The terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ in relation to food are often used interchangeably, however, they can be quite different.

Their differences ultimately culminate in regulation.

Natural 

Many health-conscious consumers increasingly gravitate towards food items labelled “all-natural” or “no artificial ingredients or preservatives” and the like, but these labels can be misleading. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), a “natural” label shouldn’t suggest that the food product is nutritionally superior due to natural processes. An item is able to be labeled natural if:

  • it contains no added vitamins, mineral nutrient, artificial flavouring agent or food additive
  • it does not have any constituent changed or removed, except for the removal of water
  • it its original chemical, biological or physical state has not been significantly altered (See Annex 1 – Minimum Processes and Annex 2 – Maximum Processes)

Use of the word “natural” in a trademark name must also comply with this criteria.

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A product may also use the label “natural ingredients” if it contains some natural ingredients, but not all ingredients used qualify as natural. This label has been brought under scrutiny for being used as marketing tool more than anything.

Organic

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CFIA approved Canada organic label. Food items must comply with the Organic Standards to use this label

Food products that are labelled “organic”, however, fall under stricter regulations among various steps in the supply chain. The CFIA’s Canada organic logo is intended to only be used on products that have an organic content of 95%+ and certified under the Canada Organic Regime.

“Plant-Based” vs “Vegan”

A lot of people get the terms plant-based and vegan mixed up, or think that they’re synonymous. While they are similar in terms of diet, it’s what they represent that sets them apart.

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Someone who follows a plant-based diet typically avoid animal products and by-products (meat, dairy, eggs, fish, gelatin, honey etc). Someone who follows a plant-based diet usually focuses more on whole foods, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and minimally eliminating refined sugary foods. But that’s just it – it’s a diet.

Veganism, in terms of diet, can be very similar as plant-based. However, veganism as a whole extends beyond diet — it’s an entire lifestyle and animal rights movement.

Vegans eliminate animal products not just from their diet, but from all aspects of their life as far as practicable. This includes things like avoiding leather, fur, and wool in apparel and accessories, and avoiding products that have been tested on animals.

While a meal could be suitable for both a vegan and someone following a plant-based diet, the term is not interchangeable.

Veganism doesn’t automatically mean healthy. There are plenty of vegan junk foods out there, which someone on a plant-based diet may not want to touch (e.g. Oreos), just as there are plenty of products someone on a plant-based diet may use that a vegan wouldn’t want to own.

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While there are further sub-sectors of both of these categories, no one needs to feel obligated to put a label on their diet to justify it, however, it is certainly valuable to acknowledge to yourself the impact of food choices on yourself, the environment, and every process involved in creating the end product.

On ‘Fake News Awards’

If you keep up with Donald Trump’s Twitter at all, you may have seen that today he published his “highly anticipated” Fake News Awards.

Trump has been highly critical of ‘Fake News’ throughout his presidency, claiming the press to be the enemy of the American people. The link Trump posted led to a malfunctioning page on the Republican National Committee website because of the attention to received. The page was functioning in less than an hour, and included 11 nominations of specific news stories and reporters, followed by a list of Trump’s accomplishments. Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 12.35.30 AM Trump first announced the Fake News Awards at the beginning of the year planning to hold them on January 8, but later pushed that date to January 17. It’s worth noting that each of the 11 stories Trump selected were corrected shortly after their publication.

 

The “winners” of the Fake News Awards were CNN with four mentions; The New York Times with two; ABC, The Washington Post, Time and Newsweek each with one mention.

The spectacle has received considerable backlash. Two Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, condemned the anti-press attacks. “The phrase ‘fake news’ – granted legitimacy by an American president – is being used by autocrats to silence reporters, undermine political opponents, stave off media scrutiny and mislead citizens,” Mccain said.

“An American president who cannot take criticism — who must constantly deflect and distort and distract — who must find someone else to blame — is charting a very dangerous path,” says Flake.

Trump has made a number of attacks on the the press, threatening to change libel lies to easier punish publishers of what he considers fake news. Trump uses the term “fake news” to address nearly any story that frames him in a negative light, offering a frightening subtext to the proposition.

On Common Dairy Misconceptions

If you grew up learning about the food pyramid, you probably grew up believing that dairy products are an essential food group to a healthy diet.

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The truth is, dairy isn’t as good for you as mainstream media would have you believe. The associated risks can easily outweigh the proposed benefits.

Below are just a few of the most common misconceptions I’ve heard regarding dairy, although there are many more, and exhaustive ethical implications that could be discussed.

  1. Drinking Milk is Good for your Health
    • 3/4 of us lack the enzyme to properly digest cow’s milk, and suffer digestively as a result
    • One study removed dairy from the diets of people experiencing regular migraines or asthma, and nearly 75% of participants reported a significant improvement in their condition
    • Over 100 studies have noted a significant correlation between Type 1 diabetes and higher amounts of milk consumed by children
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    • Another study on 7500 men found a link between the likelihood of developing Parkinson’s disease and drinking 2+ glasses of milk a day
    • A Harvard study looking at 100, 000 women aged 26-46 found those with the highest intakes of meat and dairy also had the highest risk of breast cancer
    • For men, over 20 studies have discovered significant links between prostate cancer and milk consumption
  2. You Need Milk to Get Enough Calcium
    • Calcium is a mineral in the soil which is absorbed by the roots of the same plants that cows eat, so you’re not receiving a direct source of calcium.
    • 14-Calcium-Rich-Vegetables-Infographic-Final7Dark leafy greens are far superior in obtaining calcium: on average, you absorb 30% of calcium found in milk, yogurt and cheese whereas you receive double that in foods like kale, broccoli, bok choy and spinach
    • Milk might actually increase the risk of breaking bones and osteoporosis: a Harvard Nurses study of 77, 000 women over a 12 year time frame found that those who had 2+ glasses of milk a day had a higher risk of breaking a bone
  3. Cows Need to be Milked Anyway 
    • Cows are mammals, and just like humans, only produce milk for the purpose of nursing their young. As such, its contents are entirely intended to provide the nutrients for a calf to grow up healthily
    • Humans are the only species to drink another species milk
    • In order to meet human demands, dairy cows are kept pregnant most of their life through artificial insemination
    • A cow nursing her calf naturally will produce roughly 7kg of milk a day, whereas in the dairy industry, they’re forced to produce roughly 27kg a day, often leading to painful conditions such as mastitis
    • Cows in the dairy industry are often slaughtered at the age of 4 or 5 if they don’t die of exhaustion or infection first. They’re natural life span is 18-25 years

 

At the end of the day, extracting milk from cows is a profitable business, so the dairy shutterstock_95517259_0 industry will make sure you believe that it’s good for you. This hardly scratches the surface of the issues prominent within the dairy industry, but I hope it encourages reflection on your own intake.

 

On Nike and ‘Equality’

In honour of Martin Luther King day and with Black History Month approaching, Nike released their 2018 EQUALITY line featuring shoes and apparel with messages of and relating to equality on them.

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Pictured above are Nike’s EQUALITY Air Force 1 Low’s with a hangtag reading “I Have a Dream. That one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed” from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream”

NBA teams who played from January 11-15 were seen sporting Nike’s “I Have a Dream” t-shirt during warm-ups. Nike further reports that their BHM collection “celebrates black heritage around the world by feeling community action to create positive change”.

Furthermore, the colours used in this line were inspired by the Pan-African flag.

While few will dispute that the overall message is positive, it’s hard not to notice the hypocrisy of messages of this nature coming from a brand like Nike.

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It’s hard to take seriously a company that’s faced many allegations of utilizing sweatshops and child labour to increase their profit margins, paying factory workers in Indonesia $3 a day, advocating for equality. It would seem reasonable that if a company were to voice for equality, they would be able to treat their workers equally and fairly.

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It’s hard to see what putting the word ‘equality’ on apparel and footwear, that is hardly accessible to those of lower socioeconomic status, without something actionable accompanying that really accomplishes moving towards equality.

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While the message is nice, I would like to see wealthy companies held more accountable for their actions and putting to practice the messages they preach.

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Sunflower {Poem}

Sunflower

She marvelled at the sound

of soft chimes
echoing violent wind gusts
through the nighttime
and the way the stars
could illuminate
the darkest of nights
and compensate
for the moon
hidden behind the clouds
for she too
was experienced with the crowds
that drove the moon
 into hiding
after fear of flight
from that first broken wing
She marvelled at the crash
of the waves
that thrashed before her
and with them braved
the resulting fall
that would immerse
her beneath its wondrous
weight and coerce
her into accepting
a continous drown,
gaining what she craved most –
when it all slows down
And beneath the waves
she’d remain in suspension
for just a few moments
with clarity and comprehension
She marvelled at the vibrant green
of the pine trees growing
up the side of the mountain
she carried without showing
 how it was worn
 as a form of protection
from herself,
for increased reflection
may reveal that
she was not ready
to experience
feeling unsteady
for she was painfully unaware
she was a sunflower
radiantly yellow
amidst a world of grey
She could not marvel
at the soft melody she produced
like the chimes in a windstorm
that she was so easily seduced
by, or how brightly
she could shine
like the stars in the night
each of her petals to define
her nature defiant
of the cloud who tried to hide
her away from the sun
but her objections were amplified
through the crash
of the waves that persisted
her to realize that reasons
for falling down existed
And she was just as bright
if not brighter
 than those pine trees
 because even without knowing it,
she was a fighter.