At OnBlend, we have put a focus on promoting environmental stewardship since our inception. Through connecting with experts across disciplines, many of whom are actively driving thought-leadership for the health of our planet, our main goal is to pass those insights on to you. Like the teas that we blend, our mandate is to blend ideas, in order to embark upon a remarkable idea or solution; something that is greater than the sum of its parts.
With the goal of sparking change that will last beyond Earth Month and this unprecedented period of isolation, we reached out to our network of experts and environmental activists to share their environmental habits. Watch the video to learn green habits guided by environmental experts and read on below to discover more insights.
Utilize the Resources that Nature Provides
Dr. Odette Cutris-Scott, Director of the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust in South Africa, collects the water that falls on her 10 acre farm. Across the globe, Founder of Biomimicry Frontiers Jamie Miller similarly collects the rainwater that falls on his smaller suburban property in Canada. Both have seen the benefits of rainwater collection, as it decreases the amount of fresh water from city systems that they use and reduces the amount of water they waste, therefore lowering their overall carbon footprints.
Dr. Curtis-Scott uses rain collection tanks throughout her property to feed into a large reservoir. She then recycles that water to grow vegetables and indigenous plants in her garden. This utilization is especially necessary for Dr. Curtis-Scott as South Africa is currently facing a water shortage, receiving half the amount of rainfall than the global average. Collecting rainwater allows her to grow vegetables despite her limited supply of fresh water.
Jamie Miller collects the rainwater that falls on his roof through a homemade tank system to reuse. In addition, Miller installed a greywater system that recirculates greywater from bathtubs and dishwashers into his toilet tanks. Mitigating his water waste as well as water use from city systems also reduces his water bill up to 30%.
Greywater reuse succeeds in saving money spent by water authorities, reduces sewage flows and reduces the public demand on potable water supplies (WHO 2006).
Go Urban Foraging
Professor Philip Stark of UC Berkeley Open Source Food is an avid forager who seeks to redefine what we perceive to be ‘edible’. With a large variety of edible and delicious weeds that need only to be properly identified and foraged, he believes that through foraging, we can improve the nutritional value of our meals while connecting with our landscape.
Professor Stark’s environmental habit of foraging a large portion of his daily meals means that he can avoid going to the grocery store, buying produce wrapped in plastic, and save money. To learn more about how you can forage, visit https://osfood.berkeley.edu/ or read Foraged Superfoods.
Grow Your Own Food
Growing your own food and herbs can reduce trips to the grocery store, lessen your food miles and create a stable food source during times of uncertainty.
One may assume that farming requires a vast amount of space. However De. Dori Tunstall, Dean of Design at OCAD University in Toronto, Canada, displays that it is possible to practice this environmental habit from her downtown apartment by installing an organic garden on her balcony, requiring under 5 square-feet of space. Jamie Miller utilizes plastic bins placed in the sun, which creates a greenhouse effect enabling him to grow herbs in his home.
Cycle to Work
Professor Marc Cadotte teaches conservation and ecology at the University of Toronto-Scarborough, and adamantly bikes to work all year round, rain, snow or shine. Although Professor Cadotte loves a great challenge, he shared that this habit comes from more than that; he finds that active transport, such as the bike, allows the commuter to appreciate green spaces in his city. World Health Organization data shows that access to green space can reduce health inequalities and improve overall well being (WHO 2012).
In addition, increasing active transport is an effective environmental habit that prevents pollution. Professor Cadotte’s own study found that cities that took active steps against COVID-19 had a reduction in air pollution, on average 40% (University of Toronto, 2020). These findings reveal the drastic difference that reduced emissions from cars and other vehicles can have on air quality.
Conventional, single-use diapers can take up to 500 years to decompose in a landfill (WWF 2018).
Instead of buying single-use diapers, Dr. Curtis-Scott uses cloth diapers, which can be washed and reused. Diapers made with natural materials, such as hemp, can break down much faster. Swapping in reusable products wherever possible prevents single-use options from ending up in landfill.
Avoid Fast Fashion
The United Nations Environment Program warns us that by 2050 the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget (UNEP 2018).
Dean Dori Tunstall shares how she shops responsibility by supporting small, local businesses and purchasing high-quality goods that last. “Almost all of my pieces are bespoke, which means they were made specifically for me, often out of fabrics that I have collected. I have a large collection of fabrics, which means I am one touchpoint away from the artist and it is not mass-produced.”
Part of seeking sustainability is supporting local and small designers.
The environmental habit of buying from trusted local businesses reduces fashion-miles and allows the consumer to be confident in the process used to make the clothing.
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, only 14% of plastic produced globally is collected for recycling. Dr. Curtis-Scott combats this problem by creating Ecobricks, which can be used to make structures in place of other raw materials. They have been used around the world to create structures from park benches to entire homes, reducing the creation of new materials while upcycling plastics and lowering the carbon footprint of these structures.
Ecobricks require an empty 2L plastic pop-bottle which is then tightly filled with plastic waste. Find the full details to create your own Ecobricks here: https://www.ecobricks.org/how/
The single environmental habit returned to by all of the contributing experts was the practice of getting outside, and the value of biophilia, often defined as the practice of incorporating nature and natural elements into the built environment. Many studies tout the positive psychological effects promoted by a mindful connection to nature
Having access to green spaces can reduce health inequalities, improve well-being, and aid in treatment of mental illness. (WHO 2012)
While many of our experts frequent local parks and forests, they also recognize that these solutions may not always be accessible. To combat the absence of nature in her urban environment, Dean Dori Tunstall chooses to fill her home with plants that have air-cleaning properties. “They are a good reminder for me to take care of myself and to be connected to nature,” says Dean Tunstall, as both she and her plants require sun, water, and light to thrive.
Having access to the outdoors and green space can lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Jamie Miller notes:
Studies show that the smell of soil can release endorphins in your brain, as well as the smell of pine needles.
No human can be truly sustainable, but we can seek sustainability in the choices we make every day.
– Dean Dori Tunstall
In these strange times, we seek silver linings and moments of learning – both through private reflection, and community collaboration – to become truly changed, and emerge from this crisis better, together.
Thank you to our collaborators for allowing us to see into their daily lives, and thank you for joining us on this journey.