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Think Globally, Act Locally: Sustainability Mixer 2021

On April 21, Sustainable Concordia was thrilled to join with many other participating organizations to co-host the 2021 Sustainability Mixer. This event is an annual opportunity for people to learn more about and connect with the different sustainability initiatives that take place in and around the Concordia community. Cancelled for the first time in over five years in 2020 due to the pandemic, 2021 saw our first virtual Sustainability Mixer.

Montreal-based singer-songwriter Clerel performed an acoustic set to open the event. It felt surreal to listen to live music again and it really warmed the online space. After the performance, many organizations working at Concordia presented their mission, and then we got to mixing!

Each organization present hosted a break out rooms for participants to have one-on-one conversations with the representatives of varied organizations. There is a diversity in the sustainability projects in our community, which allowed people to gravitate towards initiatives that best reflected their interests throughout the evening. For example, there were organizations like the Concordia Food Coalition, the People’s Potato, and the Hive Café Solidarity Cooperative present, who provide food related services like food banks and free Meals on Wheels delivery services. Other organizations, like Zero Waste Concordia and CUCCR, focus on ways to reduce waste and to give a second life to objects people tend to throw away without a second thought.

To conclude the event, participants gathered for a virtual dance party. Thank you to everyone who participated and brought warmth and movement to the online space – we hope you enjoyed this year’s Sustainability Mixer and we look forward to next year’s event!

If you would like to access the mixer information pamphlet, which includes information and contact details for all participating organizations, you can download it here.

 

The following participants are winners of this year’s mixer raffle prizes:

2 Frigo Vert veggie baskets – Elise Gellatly & Andrew Kaprielian

2 gift cards to Lloydie’s – Flore Cretel & Megan Clarke

3 gift cards for Radish Co-Op – Maya Bobotis, Vatsal Trivedi, & Eseosa Idemudia  

2 gift cards to BUYPOC market participating businesses – Robert Forrester, & Tim Law


Tiohtià:ke (so-called Montréal) is located on unceded Indigenous territory. It has historically been a meeting place for many nations, with the Kanien’kehá:ka as the stewards. We encourage you to reflect on your current and historical relationship to this land.

Intertwined: The Environment is Intersectional and Sustain’Alive 2021 Wrap-Up

The Environment is Intersectional, a workshop facilitated by Lourdenie Jean, founder of L’environnement, c’est intersectionnel, was held on April 8th to conclude Sustainable Concordia’s Sustain’Alive 2021 free online event series. The workshop was an opportunity for people to learn, exchange, and share their questions on different topics related to intersectionality and the environment

Whether we realize it or not, every problem we face as a society today is multifaceted. Environmental issues are no exception and their impact is often greater in communities who have been systemically oppressed. Environmental racism and food sovereignty are just a couple examples of systems that are jeopardized via environmental destruction within these communities.

The concept of intersectionality was first introduced into academia in the 1980s by Kimberlé Crenshaw, American lawyer, civil rights advocate, philosopher, and prominent scholar of critical race theory. Intersectionality is “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups” (Merriam-Webster definition, 2021).

The following statement by the Combahee River Collective, which came up in the workshop, is a wonderful way to envision what the application of intersectionality as it is intended could look like: “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.”

During the workshop, Lourdenie guided participants through several subjects – all of which brought together the main theme: that the environment is intersectional. If your next question is “how?”, we thought this explanation by Lourdenie was extremely helpful in envisioning the statement: “The environment is intersectional means self-sustainability is a human right/capacity that was stolen by the system. It manifests by the imposition of third parties.”

We learned so much from this amazing facilitator and her workshop, and we hope participants did too! Thank you so much to every participant who joined us for Sustain’Alive 2021. We look forward to continuing this annual series in 2022.


Tiohtià:ke (so-called Montréal) is located on unceded Indigenous territory. It has historically been a meeting place for many nations, with the Kanien’kehá:ka as the stewards. We encourage you to reflect on your current and historical relationship to this land.

Take the Time to Listen

On March 16th, Sustainable Concordia held its first Sustain’Alive workshop of 2021. Facilitated by Dona La Luna, a multidisciplinary artist and facilitator, Building Capacity as Settlers was a safe space for people to meet, exchange, and build relationships through dialogue and creative exercises. The goal was to better understand the meaning of allyship and to identify the roadblocks that prevent us from being effective allies as settlers.

What came out through group discussions was that it’s normal to feel lost and anxious and confused. To be scared of making mistakes, to not know what the best thing to do is or when it is your place to speak up. It’s something we all struggle with to an extent – that doubt and anxiety. It can be delicate to navigate through a situation you don’t know enough about when you are afraid to perpetuate harm while trying to help.

To be a good ally, you should aim to support. It’s important to address the issues, but don’t try to make it about yourself. You shouldn’t speak over the people affected by a situation, simply pass their message along and elevate their voices in doing so.

It’s also important to be open-minded and to be able to recognize when you made a mistake. Be willing to listen, learn, and embrace the discomfort you may feel – because it’s not about you.

We need to respect each other, and take the time to listen.

If you are interested in learning more about sustainability organizing, we hope you will join us for the last two workshops coming up in our Sustain’Alive 2021 free online event series:

E-Waste: Let’s Play Our Part (Tuesday, April 6, 2-3:30pm) (Eventbrite link)

The Environment is Intersectional (Thursday, April 8, 5-7pm) (Eventbrite link)


Tiohtià:ke (so-called Montréal) is located on unceded Indigenous territory. It has historically been a meeting place for many nations, with the Kanien’kehá:ka as the stewards. We encourage you to reflect on your current and historical relationship to this land.

Getting Together for a Better Future

Sustainability affects everyone. When faced with a global issue such as this, there is only so much we can do by ourselves. That is why getting involved with an organization can be a great first step towards building sustainable communities. Not only does it allow people to connect, share opinions, and information, but it also gives them a greater opportunity to listen and to be heard. It gives them the resources and the megaphone.

From its creation in 2002, Sustainable Concordia has always sought to engage folks in their own future. By encouraging students to cultivate local communities, we hope that they feel like they can truly make a change in their global community.

The goal is to empower people. We believe that there is strength in unity and that with a collective effort, we can truly change things for the better. By organizing a variety of workshops and events, centered on sustainability, community, and campaign-building, we hope to give tools to our community so that they can change the world in their own way. No matter how big or small the action, it is a step in the right direction.

Ultimately, we are all part of a global community, and our duty is to get the ball rolling – to start the conversations we have been putting off for too long, to take concrete actions towards more sustainable practices in order to leave a world that is not burned to ashes for future generations. Seek community, discuss, plan, and act together and one step at a time, we will get there.

If you are interested in learning more about sustainability organizing, we hope you will join us for our upcoming free, online event series: Sustain’Alive 2021.


Tiohtià:ke (so-called Montréal) is located on unceded Indigenous territory. It has historically been a meeting place for many nations, with the Kanien’kehá:ka as the stewards. We encourage you to reflect on your current and historical relationship to this land.

Three Ways to Show You Care that Don’t Cost a Thing

We’re approaching almost a year of a whole new day-to-day. Many of us are feeling the isolation as we miss the loved ones we’re separated from. The bright news is: there are many ways to show you care that don’t cost a thing, and that don’t create next year’s trash (not to mention that awkward moment when you’re trying to decide if you should keep that old Valentine’s card that’s practically made of plastic or throw it in the bin).

This Valentine’s Day, show you care in a way that sidesteps capitalism and sustains your most meaningful relationships.

1. Write a simple letter. When was the last time you sat down, put paper to pen, and let your pals know how much they mean to you? These days, when many folx are feeling isolated and uncertain about the future, it is especially important to let our loved ones know how they have impacted us. No social media needed – and we all know we could use a break from the screen!

2. Separated from a loved one due to pandemic restrictions? Try doing an activity that you love doing together or that reminds you of them and send them the proof. Trust me: your pal, parent, cousin, sibling, or other special someone will love to know that you’re thinking of them while you stroll a nostalgic neighbourhood or bake something sweet.

3. Share a story at Queering the Map. This is a community-generated counter-mapping platform that digitally archives LGBTQ2IA+ experience in relation to physical spaces. When you share something that means a lot to you, you put an opportunity out there into the universe for someone to come across your words and feel less alone, get the warm and fuzzies, or simply to find joy in your joy.

These days, we all could use a little extra love. So share yours where you can, and don’t forget to show it to yourself in some way each and every day.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Sustainable Concordia!


Tiohtià:ke (so-called Montréal) is located on unceded Indigenous territory. It has historically been a meeting place for many nations, with the Kanien’kehá:ka as the stewards. We encourage you to reflect on your current and historical relationship to this land.

Join us for SC’s Cyber AGM!

It’s finally time for our Annual General Meeting! 🎉🥳
It’s been a wild ride of a year, with its ups and downs, and we can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Plus, we’ll be having raffles for exciting locally-sourced prizes throughout the AGM!

This time around, our AGM is cyberpunk themed (High-tech? Check ✅ Dystopian surroundings? Check ✅ Radical change in the social order? Pending ⏳).

When: September 30, 5:30pm
Where: From the comfort of your own couch!

We’ll be using Zoom. Please register through this link:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIufuiurjwjG9YlWPTk7S-PfyJFAIbAkkgV

Members will be voting on the following:

  • Approval of our audited statements for 2019
  • Approval of an amendment to our constitution
  • Election of our Board of Directors for the 2019/2020 term

Check out this year’s board candidates!


Please download the AGM guide/year in review here.


Agenda:

5:30 PM – Registration

5:50 PM – Land Acknowledgement & Welcome

6:00 PM – Year in review

6:30 PM – Break and raffle

6:40 PM – 2019 – 2020 Budget to actuals

7:00 PM – Surplus project presentation

7:20 PM – 2020 – 2021 Budget (Q&A and vote)

7:40 PM – Break and raffle

7:50 PM – Constitution amendment vote

8:00 PM – Board candidate presentation & vote

8:30 PM – Final raffle and closing goodbye

 


Voting:

2019 AGM Minutes

2019 Audited statements

2019 – 2020 Budget to Actuals

2020 – 2021 Budget proposal

Board candidates

 


Montreal, traditional name Tiohtià:ke is located on unceded Indigenous territory. It has historically been a meeting place for many nations, with the Kanien’kehá:ka as the stewards. We encourage you to reflect on your current and historical relationship to this land.

AGM Postponed

A small but important announcement:

Due to COVID-19 and other considerations, Sustainable Concordia’s Annual General Meeting, which usually takes place in April, will be postponed to the Fall.

Our current board members have graciously accepted to extend their mandates until the next AGM (seriously, thank you all so much).

Keep an eye out for our AGM and board recruiting callout in the beginning of the Fall semester!

There are no Dolphins in Venice

Last Thursday in a work meeting I added “pandemic planning” as a last-minute point at the end of the agenda, and after a quick collective shrug we decided to keep an eye on the situation and then figure out what to do if the university closed. 24 hours later the university was closed. As of now only security personnel are allowed inside, and classes are moving online. Things are changing hour-to-hour, and millions of people around the world are trying to gauge the safety of themselves and their loved ones, which risks are worth taking and which aren’t, and realizing what really matters on a daily basis. It turns out, shockingly, that many of the things we’ve been told about the system we live in are wrong.

Some of the most pervasive images circulating of Italy in the midst of this disaster are the clear canals, filled with swans and dolphins who haven’t been seen in recent memory. Though it turns out these images were fake, this draws the usual comparisons that humans are the real plague, and the earth would be better off without us. This is placed alongside aerial images of Italy and China, showing the reduction in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that correlates with the spread of Covid-19 as everything grinds to a halt. Maybe, some say, this is a good thing. Maybe we’re learning a lesson and this will help us in the fight against climate change. All it will cost us are the lives of those who are already sick, vulnerable, homeless, or working on the frontlines.

Yes, this can help us in the battle against climate change, but only if we take it as a critique not of our individual actions, but of the system that relies on those actions. The way we think of “labour” and “value” is inherently flawed and we are finally learning this. People are realizing how much they are willing to change their lives when their children and families are in danger, and if that doesn’t give us empathy towards those whose children are always in danger, I don’t know what else to do.

Many have said this more eloquently than me, but hopefully what we’re learning is that sudden, radical change is possible. The government has the ability to waive rent and halt evictions, and it’s possible for everyone to get money just for existing even though guaranteed basic income has been seen as a pipe dream for years. This virus is creating a lonely, international, general strike the likes of which we’ve never seen before, and we have to seriously look at what that’s telling us. People aren’t destroying the earth, capitalism is. Humanity isn’t the plague, colonial imperialism is. People are still here, making art and feeding each other and finding ways to connect (from phone-calls to posters in windows), but our main financial and labour structures have halted, and that’s what’s giving the earth (and swans, and fish, and monkeys) a chance to breathe.

I keep going back to an episode of the podcast How to Survive the End of the World by Autumn and adrienne marie Brown from April 2018 called Reshaping Apocalypse, where they talk about the social potential of world-shifting scenarios. The Brown sisters believe that “The aftermath of a disaster is a massive opportunity to reshape relationships, political conditions, and structures”. Their main piece of advice is to know your neighbours, which definitely rings true as my life has shrunk to walking distance the past couple weeks. Maybe I’ll get bored enough to figure out how to fix the flat tire on my bicycle with things I have at home, and then my world will get a little bit wider (but just as socially distant). The ice is melting and there’s hope for a more comfortable world that will let us sing on our balconies and read in the sun. I don’t have any answers but I have a lot of questions and now I might have the time and space to think them through (and maybe even learn the trumpet).

All my love and solidarity from a distance,

Emily

 

Sustainable Investing Project Updates

The Sustainable Investing Project team has been busy in the past few months!
Presently, we are preparing to make our first round of investments as well as meeting with our advisory committee.

 

Here are the lessons we’ve learned along the way about the various industries:

Utilities:

After reviewing a number of utilities companies, we were forced to screen out the companies selected as they had significant oil and gas holdings in addition to transmission and renewable energy production. This is indicative of this sector in Canada as fossil fuels are intertwined in many aspects of the energy sector.

Renewables:

For the renewable sector, we were able to dive into ESG research and select some strong performers. While renewable energy is a major positive in the green energy future, we focused on those companies that are innovators and that operate in areas with higher impact (simply put those that are replacing dirtier energy with renewables). This sector had the most ESG metrics and data available due to the regulations and the nature of the industry.

Consumer staples:

This sector was challenging as we learned that in terms of ESG performance, little was being done by the companies that we examined. The major challenge is the complexity and size of the supply chain, and the lack of oversight of said supply chains. We were however able to identify two top performers that pay their workers a living wage which is the exception, not the rule in this industry and this is exemplary performance.

Financials:

This sector had strong financials (not surprisingly) yet fewer reported metrics in terms of ESG than expected. We were however able to compare the carbon footprints to revenue of the stocks observed to determine the top performers. Moving forward, we are going to look into what green projects the banks are investing in and how much of the activity are they funding to identify exemplary performers as this is the major source of positive or negative environmental impact.

Other lessons:

Reporting on ESG metrics is not standardized, and requires intuition, guesswork and a lot of research. Even as financial and sustainability professionals and students, this is a challenge. However, the amount of research we conducted represents considerable oversight into the portfolio.

How to start as a home investor?

Ask yourself what you are comfortable investing in, or not comfortable investing in. Ask your advisor for green and SRI funds, then ask what exactly is bundled into these funds? Are there weapons, tobacco, fossil fuels etc. If they can’t answer these questions, maybe that’s not the fund for you.

Sure Bell, Let’s talk

In 2005, the vacation company Sky Travel announced via press release that the third Monday in January is The Most Depressing Day of the Year (or Blue Monday). This was calculated by a scientific formula which measures factors including weather, number of broken New Year’s resolutions, monthly salary, and amount of financial debt. The proposed solution, says Sky Travel, is to increase your debt by leaving the country. The Geographical Cure is romantic but also falls into the symptomatology of the DSM. In the words of Lana Del Rey,

“I moved to California but it’s just a state of mind, it turns out everywhere you go you take yourself, that’s not a lie.”

This concept and formula has since been co-opted to sell everything from alcohol to office supplies. This year, Blue Monday fell on January 20th. By then, Bell’s annual Let’s Talk campaign was well underway.

Since 2010, the Canadian telecommunications giant Bell has spearheaded an annual initiative to “begin a new conversation about Canada’s mental health”. This includes a “tool-kit” with a conversation guide and a powerpoint to help you talk to your friends and family about their mental well-being, as well as resources for teachers to pass on to students. One page sends you to a website which offers a list of “crisis centres across canada”, but when I looked, there were no resources offered in Montreal (where Bell is centered), and one of the first listings took me to the website of a funeral home in Surrey.

The Let’s Talk campaign culminates with 24 hours where Bell will donate 5 cents every time users send a text, make a phone call, or use social media. While this contributes to projects in desperate need of funding, it’s tough not to be cynical when looking at Bell’s annual 5.5 billion dollar profit. Bell exists to make money, and the more times we say their name the more money they make. The campaign also came under fire in 2017 when an employee of a Bell media company was fired after requesting time off for mental health reasons. CBC reached out to Bell for a statement during their coverage of the incident but Bell didn’t want to talk about that.

Other criticism of the Let’s Talk campaign centers around the over-simplification of mental health issues, and the pressure on individual experiences and actions instead of systemic discussion. Bell ads on social media encourage gestures like supporting a coworker over coffee, but what if your coworker needs support because they’re not being paid a livable wage, or they’re dealing with workplace harassment? Teachers are offered lesson plans or workshop slides to start conversations with students about “mental illness”, but not how to connect it to larger issues like sexual violence, addiction, or eco-grief. As the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss become more obvious and the conversations turn darker and more urgent, more people around the world are attributing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to concerns about the future of the planet, and having to deal with the aftermath of increasingly common catastrophes like the ongoing fires in Australia. Mental health is an environmental, social, and economic issue, and leading workshops on meditation in the face of these kinds of challenges feels like cleaning up a beach to prepare for a tsunami.

University students are a specifically vulnerable population when it comes to mental health issues, due to factors ranging from academic and financial pressure to isolation and distance from friends and family. Illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder also most commonly emerge in your late teens or early twenties, and can be triggered or worsened by drug and alcohol use. Despite long-standing statistics that demonstrate the mental health crises on most university campuses, support is difficult to find. At Concordia the waitlist to see a psychiatrist or counsellor is months long, and the follow-up can be sporadic and unreliable. Grassroots groups like the Center for Gender Advocacy and the Concordia Nightline offer free peer-support services, but these groups are always fighting for their existence in the same capitalist hell-scape that leads students to their door.

On their website, Bell insists that if this is a crisis you should go to a hospital or call 911. My friends and I look at each other and solemnly promise never to call 911. Police are usually the first to respond to a mental health call, and those interactions can be traumatic at best and fatal at worst. The US-based Treatment Advocacy Center reports that “people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians”, and this risk is always higher for people of colour.

What’s the answer, then? The sun sets before 5pm, Australia is still on fire, when François Legault does something racist it’s not even news anymore. I skip a party to work on a paper about wealth inequality and then fall asleep before 10. My roommate comes home from the late shift and we don’t see each other for days. We leave words of encouragement on sticky-notes in the kitchen. I get an email about Concordia’s next Mental Health Fair and think about whispering all my fears into the soft ear of a Cocker Spaniel. He can’t do anything about it either.

I guess one of the things that irks me is that Bell is making money off of communication. When they say “let’s talk”, they mean “use our products”. Pay us so you can connect with your home. Pay us so you can be there for your friends. They’ve turned connection into a commodity when it’s vital for human survival. Connection and communication are free and radical, and they’re all we’ve got. Let’s talk about potlucks, eco-grief circles, singing together. Support your coworkers by starting a union. Support your friends by feeding each other and telling stories. Bell wants to “begin a new conversation”, I want to continue the one that’s been happening for thousands of years, where a community supports each other and makes sure no one gets left behind. As Lana Del Rey would say, “Fuck it. I love you.”

 

— by Emily Carson-Apstein