Get Dirty at Down to Earth Week, March 14-19

As you all know, part of what we’re trying to do differently here at oopoomoo is run a business without running the planet into the ground. Despite a lot of doom and gloom on the internet, there are quite a few groups out there doing great work and proving that being sustainable doesn’t mean being poor in any sense of that term. From time to time, we’ll be talking more about that on the blog and hoping to hear your thoughts, too. While there may not be any easy answers, there can be guiding principles that create a framework for all of us to move forward in positive directions.

Boy with spider on his shoulder

© Darwin Wiggett

What are some of the things that we’ve done? It’s been gradual, so far (much as we’d like to capture the powerful sunlight our house is bathed in almost every day, we haven’t put up solar panels yet). But incremental changes start to sum up to a lot. You may have noticed the leaping frog in the blog sidebar — that’s the logo for Bullfrog Power, a company that allows consumers a chance to ‘green’ their energy consumption. The way it works is, for the amount of electricity and/or natural gas that you use, Bullfrog Power will inject into the energy grid an equivalent amount of energy from renewable sources. You pay an additional monthly fee for this, and the amount depends on useage. For us to green oopoomoo HQ (our home) costs around $30 per month. Since we are already pretty conscientious energy users, this doesn’t significantly add to our utility bill. In other words, it’s a pretty cheap way to brag about how oopoomoo aims toward sustainability. No matter which way you slice it, we’re going to have to get creative with our energy sources and useage, so it’s important to support technologies that are taking steps in that direction. If you want to read a thoughtful book that dispels the rumours that renewable resources are too small of scale or too expensive, check out Calgary’s own Chris Turner’s book, The Leap: How to Survive and Thrive in the Sustainable Economy.

Wind turbine near Pincher Creek

© Samantha Chrysanthou

Another step we’ve taken is to try to learn more about how to run a sustainable business and live a sustainable lifestyle by joining other like-minded groups. REAP (Respect for the Earth and All People) is one such non-profit based in Calgary that we’ve recently joined. A collective of businesses that are profitable in the ‘now’ while keeping an eye on a sustainable future, REAP members are locally owned and contribute more to their economies than your average chain store. We have to be honest here…one of the coolest things about REAP is that it connects people to great businesses such as those related to food! Restaurants, farms, grocery stores…you name it! And this week, REAP is hosting its Down to Earth Week with events across Calgary relating to living the good local and sustainable life. Darwin and I will be at Boxwood restaurant tomorrow to sample delicious wine from Birds & Bees Organic Wine Farm and Meadery and hors d’oeuvres prepared by Boxwood chef Andy Love and sourced from Top of the Mountain Beef and Greens, Eggs and Ham. Yum! As we nibble our goodies, we’ll hear the inspiring stories behind these producers and how, by choosing local and sustainable farms, Calgary restaurants like Boxwood and River Cafe are making a difference.

Red tomato

© Samantha Chrysanthou

We’ll also be volunteering at the REAP table from 1-4pm on Sunday, March 18 at “Naturally – Mother Nature’s Trade Fair“. The trade fair is free-admission and family-friendly, so come learn more and make sure you stop by and say hi! There’s lots more events, including a screening of the award-winning film, “And This Is My Garden”, so do check out Down to Earth week March 14-19 if you are in the Calgary area, and pass along the opportunity to friends and neighbours who may be interested. Even if you’re not in this area, post a comment about what your community is doing to build resilient, healthy communities!

Round Leafed Orchid, Kootenay Plains, Alberta, Canada

© Darwin Wiggett

Speaking of healthy, resilient communities, tomorrow evening (March 14, 6pm) the Town of Cochrane is having an informational meeting on the question of bringing transit to town. This issue has caused quite a stir with some prominent town folk being quite vocal in their refusal of any form of transit. Transit was a key part of Cochrane’s Sustainability Plan that was derived from public survey, so this is an important question to this community. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of misinformation put out by a small but organized group of naysayers. Whether you think transit is right for Cochrane or not, this is a great opportunity to hear the facts. So we encourage Cochranites (and Calgarians who work in Cochrane) to come to this meeting to hear and be heard. This is what democracy is about!

Whew, what an exciting week!

Children walking away down a road

© Darwin Wiggett

About the Author

Photographing the incredible beauty of natural things, filming quirky videos, trying new foods with unpronounceable names, curling up with a good book, sharing ideas on how to live lighter on the Earth...these are a few of my favourite things!

8 Comments

  1. Jay Patel
    March 13, 2012

    LOL!! Love the last shot…It is fantastic.

  2. Mike Bingley
    March 13, 2012

    Great job being more sustainable! It’s important to remember that this is a game of inches and that it’s a big tent. Every little bit helps. I’m glad that you guys are doing what you can do to speak about the beauty of the earth and not falling into the traps that so many in our movement do – that is speaking only about the negative. Remember that Martin Luther King didn’t get people to follow him by saying that he had a nightmare. I worry that’s what too many of us have done over the years and we wonder why our movement hasn’t taken off.

    If you look at solar panels – Enmax has a pretty good program to lease to own them. That being said, the biggest bang for your buck is still solar hot water – pays for itself in about a year and makes a big difference. Combine that with bullfrog and you have a fantastic energy efficient home.

    • Samantha
      March 16, 2012

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comments and support. We’ve heard that as well about hot water heaters…have to look into that as ours is a dinosaur.

  3. Craig
    March 13, 2012

    Being energy wise and installing sustainable and renewable sources of energy in your home is one of the best ways you can help. The unfortunate part is the government, at least here in Ontario has pretty much jumped off of the bandwagon. My wife and I had 27 solar panels installed on our roof last year. The company we used screwed up with the contract and now we are fighting with the various ministries to try to get payment for the electricity that these solar panels are generating every single day. Needless to say getting anything done when the government is involved is akin to watching the glaciers melt.

    That being said, we are very happy that we are able to do our part in helping the earth.

    One of the things that each and every photographer out there should always remember…

    Take only photographs

    Leave only footprints

    Bring back only memories

    Have a great day!

  4. Branimir
    March 15, 2012

    Thank you for a wonderful post. It is interesting that I had a similar “aha” moment a few years ago. Now, at an old age, I am going back to school with a goal of obtaining a Master of Sustainable Environmental Management degree (like I do not have enough degrees already). My hope is to expand my horizons and write & spread the gospel of happy stories about the relationship between humankind and nature.
    In the January issue of Conservation Biology, an article co-authored by a well-known ecologist and conservationist Reed Noss presented suggestions for a few conservation goals that I personally plan to focus my efforts on: set reasonable and achievable goals, demonstrate the value of nature to humans, and popularize the idea that conservation can be achieved (i.e. communicate a positive message).
    If readers of this blog are interested, there is a great video and blog post titled “We are deaf to doom and gloom” by natural history and conservation photographer Clay Bolt. It can be accessed here http://imagesfromtheedge.com/blog/?p=9174
    (after you watch the video, click on the “following on my last post” link to read the original article)

    • Samantha
      March 16, 2012

      Thanks for the link, Branimir, and good luck with your degree! It sounds like a timely topic.

  5. Matthew C.
    March 23, 2012

    To be a bit of a contrarian, loud wind turbines each kill thousands of birds per year and dams create a profound effect on the landscape and river life (and are by far the riskiest of all power generation technologies for human beings). And those two constitute the bulk of “renewable” energy. I think I’m going to have to weigh in for favoring building better and safer nuclear plants instead of more Glen Canyon dams and bird-killers.

    • Samantha
      March 25, 2012

      Hi Matthew,

      Thanks for wading in to the debate. Your points are very good ones. I had huge concerns about windmills killing birds (plus there is the aesthetics of having kilometres of solar panels or giant wind turbines) and had also heard that brown bats in Alberta are killed when they fly near the turbines due to pressure in their lungs. We looked into the these concerns and it seems the numbers of birds killed has been exaggerated by anti-renewable energy groups. Not sure about numbers on the bats.

      Ideally, we could make energy for our needs without killing a single plant or animal. That is not going to happen. Wind and solar seem to have less of an impact on the environment than oil and gas development, so I support it as the best route forward and to channel resources into developing these industries and encouraging even better technologies to reduce impacts.

      I have to disagree with you on nuclear though. Everything I’ve read about past experience with nuclear shows it costs much more to build than returns on the investment, and there are the problems of needing water to operate. And finally, what do we do with the reactive waste? I think we have an even longer way to go with nuclear before I’d trust any company to build a ‘safe’ reactor.

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