15 Minutes on Global Climate Action Week

Episode Transcript

Lama Alsafi: 00:01 Hello and welcome to 15 Minutes to Change the World, where in 15 minutes, you can learn a bit more about the world and how you can help change it. My name is Lama Alsafi, standing in for Kasia Souchen as host of this podcast.

In this episode of 15 Minutes Change the World. We’re looking at Global Climate Action Week, which runs from September 20th to the 27th. Throughout this week, people in over 150 countries around the world are demanding increased climate action from decision-makers. Our guests today are Kelly Sannes Governance and Strategic Planning Advisor at CARE Canada and Evelyne Morin, Program Manager, Women’s Economic Empowerment at CARE Canada. In addition to their critical roles with CARE, Kelly and Evelyne are also active members of CARE’s Green Team, which seeks to design a more eco-friendly office for us all.

Welcome Kelly and Evelyne, thank you for joining us today. Can you tell our listeners what the CARE Canada Green Team is?

Kelly Sannes: 01:23 Absolutely. So the Green Team is a group of individuals from all parts of our organization who come together to support, inspire, organize, and inform CARE staff on the ways we can make our personal lives greener, but also as an organization, reduce our environmental impact and footprint. We are advocates for meaningful action and solutions to the climate crisis. And sometimes that means small actions like ensuring our recycling and composting programs are functioning properly. While other times it means we’re looking critically at the ways in which we operate and making internal policy recommendations to reduce CARE Canada’s carbon footprint.

Lama Alsafi: 02:04 So how does the Green Team relate to the Global Climate Action Week that’s happening right now?

Evelyne Morin: 02:09 So during the Global Climate Action Week, people are uniting their voices around an issue that affects everyone as human beings: climate change. A great number of citizens here in Canada and across the globe have already joined in the younger generation’s call to action for climate change led by the now iconic Greta Thunberg. They have marched and will continue to march in the streets of many cities to push leaders to act, take concrete actions towards the reduction of harmful laws, policies and practices for our environment that have been devastating humanities, and natural resources for decades. Greta started a global movement to shake us up from our inertia with the Fridays for future strikes.

The climate action week aims at amplifying this movement worldwide highlighted by the Climate Action Summit hosted by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres earlier this week in New York City with world leaders. This summit aims at boosting ambition and accelerate action to implement the Paris agreement. CARE at the global level is participating in both events and calls for increased and urgent action for climate justice. It felt logical for CARE Canada’s Green Team to follow suit to the Climate Action Week activities and objectives its members have been promoting and adopting greener ways of working at CARE Canada to reduce the organization’s environmental footprint. And we are committed to show concrete results in the coming months towards this.

Lama Alsafi: 03:54 Very good. So can you tell us a little bit more about what actions the Green Team has taken at CARE to help reduce our carbon footprint in the office?

Kelly Sannes: 04:00 Definitely. So CARE Canada has a really strong voice in climate advocacy and our programming responds to the front lines of our current climate crisis. But over the past few years we’ve been reflecting inwards and trying to find efficiencies and opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint here at home. We’ve had some early wins in reducing our office’s carbon footprint by finding energy efficiencies. For example, we’ve installed timers on everything from our office heating system to our lights from our coffee machines to our water heater and it’s pretty incredible how much energy we’ve saved by putting our major systems on timers.

We know that travel is a significant portion of our carbon footprint here at CARE and we’ve been working on finding ways to reduce travel where we can. We have a really vibrant culture around biking to work and we’ve teamed up with some community organizations to provide workshops for staff so we can all get a little more comfortable with cycling and bike maintenance. Of course, being in Ottawa biking isn’t an option all year round. So we’ve set up a carpooling site where CARE staff can connect with each other to carpool both to and from the office. And last year we were all very excited about this. We installed electric vehicle charging stations to support our staff with electric vehicles. Our newest project is also quite exciting since it’s difficult to get composting in our area. We’ve launched our very own composting system and we plan to use the compost in our garden next spring. Many of these changes, were small steps but when you compound them it’s something to get excited about.

Evelyne Morin: 05:41 The green team also wishes to influence the internal culture at CARE Canada and reach staff at the individual level as well in adopting life habits that will enhance their environmental impact in a protecting positive way. So to kick off the week, the green team encouraged CARE Canada staff to commit to at least one green action to take during the week, whether it is to eat only vegetarian meals, to not use plastic at all during the week or to leave the car at home in the driveway and use public transportation. These commitments are being shared throughout the week on social media by challenging people in our networks in doing the same. We are also supporting internal activities planned by our amazing Policy and Influence Lead Shaughn McArthur, for example, the write-a-thon during which staff gathered in the boardroom to write to political candidates in their riding to let them know their hopes and expectations on climate change.

Lama Alsafi: 06:47 It’s definitely exciting. Um, Evelyn, what does the climate action meek mean to you?

Evelyne Morin: 06:53 Uh, for me, the Climate Action Week is a perfect opportunity to sensitize my family and friends about the fact that I care about climate change issues, that I’m taking action and that there are simple ways to do so. I am happy when a friend or relative asks me tips about the new habits I have integrated into my home and lifestyle. For example, buying in bulk. How, I did it and what I recommend if they want to try it too. Climate Action Week helps me emphasize that they can to engage in saying no to consumption patterns that end up degrading the environment and threatening the existence of millions of people.

As a CARE employee I witness and work to alleviate the negative consequences events caused by climate change have on the most vulnerable populations in the world. Climate change exacerbates gender inequalities, uh, worsens hunger around the world and forces people to migrate. As a result, conflicts arise over the few resources available. Climate Action Week and the care for climate campaign helps us shout to the world what some are trying to silence. That impact of human behaviors on environment is real and that we have to act now.

Lama Alsafi: 08:11 And Kelly, same question to you. What does climate action week mean to you?

Kelly Sannes: 08:15 So for me, climate action week is all about taking meaningful engagements for myself personally and trying to help my family and friends do the same. Um, this week I’m going to actually be taking a really big step, at my home, we are getting rid of the grass in our front yard and we’re going to be planting all sorts of um, native and natural plants to the Ottawa area to help promote, um, bees, but also just to create kind of a more natural ecosystem on my own property, which I’m excited about.

Lama Alsafi: 08:47 That’s very exciting and a great step. So can you tell our listeners, are there ways you take climate action into your day to day roles at CARE Canada?

Kelly Sannes: 08:58 For start, I use public transportation to get to work and this is a big one for me since I don’t live particularly close to the office. And while it can be time consuming, it equates to a huge reduction in my carbon footprint and it gives me the opportunity to socialize with my coworkers on the way to and from work. In terms of my role, I work in governance. So for me the single most important action I can take is supporting CARE via policy statements and policy accountability. This is an exciting year for us in that regard.

We’ve committed to reducing emissions from travel up to 10% and that is no small number. Another small daily action I take is I pack my lunch every day. Well that’s not true. My partner packs my lunch but I eat the lunch and we committed to doing this years ago. It reduces our overall food waste and the amount of plastic that comes and goes in our lives. Outside of this, there are a number of actions that many of us here take from reducing our printing to hosting plastic free meetings.

Lama Alsafi: 09:59 How can someone who might be listening at home or in their car right now take climate action? Do you have any practical tips for our listeners?

Evelyne Morin: 10:07 Yeah, so there are several ways that you can, uh, engage. Uh, for example, at home you can reduce your energy, consumptions and there are several, um, actions you can take. For example, reducing your water heater to 48 degrees Celsius. Um, when you’re doing your laundry, use cold water and hang your clothes to dry. Instead of using the dryer, uh, you can change your light bulbs for energy efficient ones. Like the LEDs also lowering the thermostat at night and when you’re away from home will definitely contribute in reducing your energy consumption. You can also change your consumption patterns, um, by, for example, and as I already said, buying in bulk, which minimizes the use of packaged products.

You can pack a waste free lunch, instead of throwing away things that are broken. You can, um, fix them. Uh, you can also buy secondhand. There are lots of things that people buy, uh, and then they, they don’t need any more, but there are still in great shape. So, and uh, buying local is also another tip. Um, you can sign up for community support agriculture or what we call the, the food baskets, the farm baskets, uh, that can be picked up in a location in your neighborhood or even just delivered right to your doorstep. Another thing that you can do is educate your kids about what is happening in the world and why youth and adults are marching for the climate. You can organize fun activities with your kids that will sensitize them to environmental sustainability. These are only some examples. There are many resources out there where you can find great action ideas and also exchange with other like-minded citizens on your experiences.

Kelly Sannes: 12:09 I think it’s just important to make sure that you take every opportunity to get civic with your action. Individual actions are great, but we have a collective voice and there is a federal election coming up. It’s really important that we all take our civic duty seriously.

Lama Alsafi: 12:25 Well said. Thank you so much, Kelly and Evelyne for taking the time to talk with us today.

Evelyne Morin: 12:29 Thanks for having us.

Kelly Sannes: 12:30 Thank you for having us.

Lama Alsafi: 12:31 Thank you. It was a pleasure speaking with you and we appreciate you sharing your story with us. Thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in. As always, you can stay up to date on our newest episode of 15 Minutes to Change the World on Spotify and iTunes.