In science we’ve been taking some time to recognize the environment around us and our impact on it as consumers. In order to do this, we calculated our personal ecological footprints using the following sheets:

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I was unpleasantly surprised by my numbers; however, a few items on this list aren’t relevant to be anymore as I no longer play ringette or softball, both of which are sports that require huge rinks or fields, which lowers my points a bit, but not a lot. Our class average footprint was 10 hectares, so my numbers weren’t uncommon but not good either.

Actions that currently increase the size of my footprint are:

  1. Eating non-local food
  2. Ringette and Softball (sports)
  3.  Over 5 minute showers
  4. Transportation (car)
  5. Buying new clothes
  6. Many unused clothes
  7. Computer/Electronic Use
  8. Flushing toilet
  9. Eating meat
  10. Non Eco-Friendly Household Cleaning Agents

THE PLAN:

Actions that I could take to reduce the size of my footprint (and why):

  1.  Showering for 5 mins
    Usually I stay in the shower longer than I really need to. I want to make this change because I know that a huge amount of water goes into bathing and I don’t really need 10+ minutes for a single shower.
  2. Walking to school
    In the past, I was driven to school most days and took transit some days. This adds up to a lot of air pollution… Now, I can switch to walking because I’m now living much closer to the school, which I have been doing for the past few weeks. I want to make this change to reduce the amount of time I spend in a car polluting the air, and because it’s a good way to get more exersize on a daily basis.
  3. Letting the “yellow mellow”
    …Which yes, sounds a little bit gross. But if you think about it, it’s not that bad at all. According to Wikipedia, “About 91-96% of urine consists of water. Urine also contains an assortment of inorganic salts and organic compounds, including proteins, hormones, and a wide range of metabolites, varying by what is introduced into the body.” I know a lot of people must be thinking: But pee smells bad, right? Wrong! If one is healthy and stays hydrated, urine doesn’t typically have a strong smell.
  4. Recreational Activities
    Ringette and softball, my two main sports in the past, are both activities that require large areas of land and therefore, energy, especially the ice rinks used to play ringette. Tournaments and games require driving long distances. In the future, I won’t be playing ringette or softball anymore. This change is occurring because I no longer have time for organized sports that have unreliable schedules, due to school activities. A perk of this is that it will reduce my footprint by quite a lot. I continue to do exercise even though I’m not a part of these sports anymore.
  5. Going Vegetarian for 2 weeks (or more)
    This is by far the biggest change I’m planning to make. I want to try switching to a vegetarian diet for at least two weeks or more, depending on how I feel about it. This year, I’ve become more educated on how animals are farmed and a lot of what happens the these creatures is, to say the least, unpleasant. It also requires immense amounts of water, and cows release air pollution. Earlier this year, I decided to cut pork out of my diet because I love pigs, and it’s been working well so far. Pigs are also as cognitively complex as dogs, and I cannot imagine eating my dog, or any dog. It’s impossible to miss bacon when I think about how it got onto my plate. I also don’t eat a lot of beef or chicken. My main meat is wild salmon.

THE REFLECTION

The EASY changes:

  • Showering for 5 mins
    A handy tip I learned a long time ago (thanks YouTube!) was to listen to music in the shower. How on earth does this help? Well, let’s say one song is approximately 3-4 minutes. That means that once one song finishes, I should begin wrapping up my shower so that I’ll stay at 5 minutes.
    I tried timing my showers.
    The first time I tried cutting cutting down, I only took 3 mins and 10 secs! From then on, it fluctuated from 3 minute to 6 minutes.
  • Walking to school
    I didn’t really have much of a choice here, to be honest. Walking to school every day is slowly becoming a norm for me. It takes me about 10 minutes to walk to school, the same amount of time it used to take to drive, and less than half the time getting there by transit. The walk is a pleasant way to start the day.
  • Letting the “yellow mellow”
    Let me tell you, this requires no effort. Zero. Nada. This may make it onto the list of best decisions I’ve made in my life. However, I only practice this at home, because it’s not polite to leave your toilet unflushed in public areas.
  • Going Vegetarian
    There were ups and downs in going vegetarian. I’ll begin with the ups. It was painless to release meat for my diet morally. This is a good resource for why factory farming is harmful to animals and the environment. Yes, Humans may be designed to eat meat, but I don’t want to eat animals that have been raised cruelly. Earlier this year, I decided to cut pork out of my diet because I love pigs, and it’s been working well so far. Pigs are also as cognitively complex as dogs, and I cannot imagine eating my dog, or any dog. It’s impossible to miss bacon when I think about how it got onto my plate. I also don’t eat a lot of beef or chicken. My main meat is wild salmon. I still allowed myself to have milk, eggs, honey, and other animal by-products.

The HARD Changes:

  • Showering for 5 mins
    It’s difficult to wash conditioner out of hair, especially if you leave it to the last minute. My method to overcome this is to wash my hair first so products have plenty of time to be gone.
  • Walking to school
    Sometimes the load that I have to bring to school can become hefty and hurts my shoulders. The weather can vary from extreme heat to pouring rain…but overall, I don’t regret this change at all, because I get to have some fresh air and a walk every day.
  • Letting the “yellow mellow”
    After a couple of days, I was getting tired of it. I’m not going to get into the (literally) stinky details. It wasn’t that bad, but you know.
  • Going Vegetarian
    A difficulty in going vegetarian is making sure to get enough nutrition and paying attention to things like protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.
    I did a lot of research in order to begin my journey to becoming vegetarian, using different websites (22 Things to Know Before you Stop Eating Meat, 10 Complete Proteins Vegetarians Need To Know About, Sources of Iron, How to be  Healthy Vegetarian., etc.) and I drew a lot of information and meal inspiration from that. One of my favourite recipe website was Cookie and Kate.
    I had a lot of fun experimenting with different recipes.

Obstacles:

As I mentioned in the “hard changes” section, I had some difficulties taking faster showers and switching to a vegetarian diet. Since going vegetarian had the most impact, I’ll address this one above the others.

At first, it was difficult for me to figure out what to do with beans. My family are not avid bean eaters, likely due to my hate for bean porridge when I was young. I was also confused with quinoa – (apparently pronounced keen-wah and not k-winoh-ah??)  when it comes to food, I’ll try anything. I found some amazing recipes online for both of these things. I integrated a lot more nuts and other sources of iron and protein into my diet. As part of my experiment, I tried vegan chickpea burgers for dinner instead of regular ones- they were actually really good!

Steps I plan to take in the future:

I’m going to continue showering for a shorter amount of time. I think I can keep being vegetarian up, especially after what I learned about farmed animals. I want to try educating people more on how their meat is raised without being rude or harsh, so that people can make wider decisions about what they eat, but I understand that organic and free range animals are more expensive to buy and some people would find it really hard to make that change. All in all, this has been a successful “experiment” and it has definitely impacted me.

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