New Challenges

50% by 2030 Community Carbon Challenge:

Don’t Upgrade Your Phone (Yet!)

I will not rush to upgrade to the latest smartphone model on offer and when I upgrade, I will be sure my old phone is repurposed or recycled responsibly. Fact: Extending the lifespan of smartphones and other electronics by just one year would save the EU as much carbon emissions as taking two million cars off the roads annually.  Source

We all love our smartphones but do we need to upgrade with every new feature offered by manufacturers?

Almost 1.5 billion phones are made and sold every year, and the resources used to make those phones are finite. Even if you recycle your old phone, up to 35% of those resources are lost in the recycling process. 

The UN stated last year that electronic and electrical waste reached 50 million tonnes with just a fifth of the e-waste formally recycled. Millions of people work informally recycling these materials and are often exposed to dangerous working environments.

A smartphone is made up of 62 different metals and metalloids. In order to obtain these precious metals and produce a single smartphone, 34kg of ore is mined, using 100 litres of water and 20.5g of cyanide.

According to the EPA, between 130 million and 150 million phones are abandoned in the US every year. 


Don’t Upgrade Your Phone (Yet!) – YouTube

How to save the world, one mobile device at a time | World Economic Forum (

Going on a Picnic…

I will pack eco-friendly picnics this summer. Fact: Virtually all of the plastic that has ever been made still exists today as it stays in the environment for up to 1,000 years.  source

Sharing food outdoors with friends is a great summer time activity but don’t let it be an excuse to use those disposable containers, plastic wrap, plates, cups and utensils that you have been trying so hard to get out of your kitchen.

Use reusable containers for your food and drinks. If you use a little care packing them, even glass jars can be used. Make your own ice packs. Take a blanket or table cloth you can throw in the wash when you get home. Take real utensils and sturdy serving plates and drinking cups that you can bring home to wash. If you don’t have any, a set of camping dishes is a good investment.

Really, how far are you actually going to carry it all?  And you will have no need to use one of those overflowing trash bins.

Think about a location close to home. Avoid that long car trip, maybe take bicycles.

Leave nothing behind.


How to Pack a Plastic-Free Picnic (

How To Clean and Reuse Glass Jars For Everyday Use – Honestly Modern

Plan a sustainable picnic | National Trust

Support the Circular Economy

The pledge: I will buy products that are made to last, are repairable, and at the end of their life, are recyclable.

Fact: 90% of the raw materials used in manufacturing become waste before the product leaves the factory while 80% of products made get thrown away within the first six months of their life. Source: Seven Things to Know about Bioeconomy (PDF. Page 6).

As Covid restrictions ease and we get back to shopping in person, please consider:

  1. Planned obsolescence: A common practice and a strategy used by many companies to grow profits. When an item breaks or is no longer fashionable, we replace it with a new one. Built To Fail: 7 Examples Of Planned Obsolescence From Durability Matters.
  2. Right to repair: Many companies make repair of their products difficult and expensive. Parts are not available and special tools are often needed. There is a growing movement to enact “right to repair” laws. When will Canadians have the right to repair? From Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  3. New products sent to landfill: This is a growing issue as online shopping increases. Incredibly it is often cheaper to send unsold or returned products to the dump (sometimes in their original packaging) rather than deal with it in a sustainable manner. Think Amazon fulfillment centres! Amazon labels millions of unsold products for destruction, new investigation finds From The Verge
How You Can Help — Shop Local

You can see what you are buying and avoid costly returns. Also, you can talk to your local vendor about stocking more sustainable products and making repair and recycling easier. Plus you’re supporting the local economy.
Circular Economy From Government of Canada. 

A Call to Action at Every Level

With the big picture top of mind it’s hard to think about things like changing light bulbs.

  • Let’s take action together – be part of the community voice.
  • Create YOUR Personal Action Plan! –  here
  • Reduce your carbon footprint 8% a year to reach 50% by 2030
  • Talk to your municipal, provincial, and federal representatives.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2018 found rapidly escalating risks as global warming increases between 1.5℃ and 2℃. 

The report found getting on a 1.5℃ track is feasible but would require halving global emissions by 2030.

Climate scientists say it is still physically, technically, and economically do-able, considering the physics of earth’s systems and possible rates of societal change.

Success will depend on the ambition of governments and the effectiveness of campaigning by non-government organizations and individuals – like you. We can do this! 

Choose People-Powered Recreational Vehicles 

Boy and girl canoeing

*NEW* I will choose people-powered recreation vehicles this summer. Fact: People power is as close to zero emissions as you can get.

Hiking: On land all you need is a good pair of walking shoes.  Discover Muskoka’s amazing hiking trails — link below.  Lobby for trails you don’t need to drive to, connected to your community.

Biking: Road bike, mountain bike, plain old kids bike and everything in between…there are lots of opportunities in Muskoka – link below, but again we need to lobby for safe, separated bike trails connecting communities to each other.

On Water: Canoes and kayaks are enjoying ever-increasing popularity and can be rented many places. Peddle boats, paddle boards and an array of sailboats are also on offer. The physical effort required for these activities is a great health benefit; better for you, and with zero emissions, better for the planet.

Some inconvenient facts about fossil-fuel powered watercraft: Most powered boats use internal combustion engines (ICE), which produce nitrogen, carbon monoxide, particulates, and harmful organic compounds that affect water quality. An old two-stroke engine will discharge 25-30% of its gas and oil mixture unburned into the water. Newer four-stroke engines are more efficient, but still produce harmful emissions. Propellers churn up lake bottoms in shallow areas, re-suspending sediments. The nutrients (phosphorus) in these sediments feed surface algae and can cause algal blooms. If you must use a powered watercraft, see tips from “The Land Between,” Cottage County’s Conservation Organization below. Have a great summer!

Restore the Dark Sky

*NEW* I will reduce my use of artificial light to help restore the “Dark Sky.” When it is necessary I will use energy efficient lighting. Fact: ENERGY STAR certified light bulbs, using light-emitting diode (LED) technology use up to 90% less energy, and last 15 times longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs. source

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” — Vincent van Gogh

If you haven’t changed bulbs, do it now.

Sticker shock is no longer an issue. Advancements in manufacturing technology have driven the prices down to a level where LED bulbs are more cost-effective than CFLs or incandescent bulbs. 

Remember, turn out the lights when you leave a room.

The nighttime environment is a precious natural resource for all life on Earth, but the glow of uncontrolled outdoor lighting has hidden the stars and changed our perception of the night. Van Gogh painted his famous “Starry Night” in Saint Rémy, France, in 1889. Now, the Milky Way can no longer be seen from there.

For billions of years, all life has relied on Earth’s predictable rhythm of day and night. It’s encoded in the DNA of all plants and animals. Humans have radically disrupted this cycle by lighting up the night.

Plants, animals, and humans depend on this cycle of light and dark to govern life-sustaining behaviors such as reproduction, nourishment, sleep, and protection from predators. 80% of migratory birds in North America make their seasonal flights at night.

Outdoor lighting, when it is necessary, should be fully shielded and directed down, not into the sky. Dimmers, motion sensors and timers help to reduce illumination levels and save energy.

Vincent (Starry Starry Night) Don McLean – YouTube


Light bulbs or lamps (

LED Light Bulbs: Comparison Charts | Eartheasy Guides & Articles |

Home Lighting | International Dark-Sky Association (

Human Health | International Dark-Sky Association (

Active Transportation for Muskoka.

*New*I will advocate locally, for better active transportation infrastructure.  Quote: “Cycling is ten times more important than electric cars for reaching net-zero cities”.  Source

You may have already pledged to get out of the car more often. Now let’s double down on that pledge.

It’s good for your health, for the planet’s health, and for the tourist industry and that means it’s good for local business.

The picture here is from Florence, Italy. You can see motorized vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians all have their own lanes. It is possible.


For residents, comprehensive active infrastructure would allow you to leave the car behind for all or part of your commute to work, school, or shopping. It would also provide additional fitness and recreation possibilities.

In Muskoka that means a better network of sidewalks and paths for pedestrians, dedicated bike lanes and good bike parking in towns. It also means more hiking and safe bike trails outside of town, all connected to each other and to public transit.


We can make Muskoka an international ecotourism destination by providing sustainable travel options that connect tourists with Muskoka’s natural habitat, accommodations, camping opportunities, and our heritage communities.

Just imagine this. Travellers from the GTA or those who fly in from abroad, board the train at Union Station, and arrive at a station in Muskoka for a bicycle getaway. They bring their own bike or rent one when they arrive. Additional supplies and services are available from local businesses.

They set out to explore, knowing the infrastructure is in place to make their adventure memorable for all the right reasons.  Or they enjoy a personalized tour of Muskoka with all meals and accommodation booked in advance.  

That’s a win for tourists, a win for local business, and a win for the planet as we fight to reduce our carbon emissions.

Talk to your local Councillor about what is needed to connect your neighbourhood to an active transportation network and remind MPP Norm Miller about Doug Ford’s promise to bring back the train.


Carbon Drawdown – Rewilding

*New* I will restore natural vegetation where-ever I can, to provide wildlife habitat and assist natures drawdown of CO2 from the atmosphere. 

Nature is working hard to absorb the atmospheric carbon that is heating our world. Many natural processes—especially photosynthesis—draw down CO2 to store it in plants, soil, and the sea. We can help.

In Your Vegetable Garden

Soil carbon sequestration, also known as “regenerative agriculture,” includes various ways of managing farmland and your garden so that soils absorb and hold more carbon.

Agricultural practices have depleted soils of 50–70% of their original organic carbon. No-till methods, cover crops, and mulching protect soil microbes and prevent erosion. Addition of compost and other organic matter builds healthy soil.


We need to preserve the forests, wetlands and shoreline vegetation that remain; then, through rewilding, restore what has already been lost. We can do this even in our own neighbourhood.

Waterfront: Plant and cultivate native shoreline plants. They are critical for wildlife habitat and act as a buffer, filtering runoff and preventing soil erosion.

Land: Allow part of your yard to rewild. Even mowing your lawn less often will allow wildflowers like clovers and dandelions to bloom for the bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.  Allow some debris to remain around plants and trees to provide habitat and food for insects during their entire life cycle – eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults.

Balcony: Grow plants like marjoram and thyme in pots. Even in town the bees will sniff them out. Take part in community gardens or initiatives, like sowing wildflowers in public spaces.

“To restore stability to our planet we must restore its biodiversity, the very thing that we’ve removed… We must rewild the world.”- Sir David Attenborough


Community Carbon Challenge begins to look at some
“Big Ticket-Big Impact” items.

The Carbon Footprint of Your Refrigerator

To gain some perspective, a typical refrigerator draws about 500 kWh per year. Compare that to the total annual power consumption of the average person in Nigeria (135 kWh), or Ghana (299 kWh), or Bangladesh (274 kWh).

There are some great energy saving tips to get more out of the fridge you already own on this direct energy site. How Much Electricity Does My Refrigerator Use?

Newer models have better insulation, door seals, air circulation and more efficient compressors.

A refrigerator built in the 1970s or 80s may use 4 or 5 times more electricity than a new, high-efficiency one and may cost as much as $200 more per year to run than a new ENERGY STAR® model.

If your old refrigerator requires costly repairs (exceeding a few hundred dollars), then it probably makes sense to replace it with an energy-efficient model.

When shopping for a new refrigerator consider:  An oversized refrigerator will waste energy and space. The most efficient refrigerator designs usually have the freezer compartment on the bottom; least efficient are usually side-by-side models.

Learn how to read the EnerGuide label for a refrigerator. – Here   The Energuide label alone is no guarantee of efficiency.  Look for the blue ENERGY STAR® certification symbol. (used in Canada and the US)

Be sure that your old fridge is properly recycled and research the seller and the manufacturer of your new fridge to make sure they are environmentally responsible and sustainable companies.

The Challenge:

*New* – I will do what I can to reduce the energy consumption of my refrigerator and replace it if necessary.  FACT: A typical refrigerator draws about 500 kWh per year. Compare that to the total annual power consumption of the average person in Nigeria (135 kWh), or Ghana (299 kWh), or Bangladesh (274 kWh)Source

The Carbon Footprint of your next Vehicle.

The first questions to ask are: do I need a personal vehicle, does our household need a second vehicle?  If you need to replace a vehicle, seriously consider buying electric (EV).

a Nissan Leaf, a Smart Fortwo ED, and a Mitsubishi i MiEV

Range anxiety is the biggest issue. With better batteries and charging infrastructure roll out this is no longer the case. EVs now have a range from 300 to 700 km. Quick-charging outlets allow recharging during a bathroom/ coffee break.

Longer range equates to battery choice and increasing cost. The cost of an EV now, with the subsidies available, is closing in on the cost of an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. Any difference is soon made up with lower operating and maintenance cost. A selection of used EVs is becoming available.

Plug N Drive is a great place to start your research. At their EV Discovery Centre in North York you can test drive a selection of EVs (Temporarily closed due to covid-19,  re-opening  soon).  You can use the tool on their website to find an EV that matches your lifestyle.

Here is a great story about a couple who have owned a Nissan Leaf for 10 years. This is pretty much a Nissan ad, but it is a great story.  Watch the video – Here.

Car manufacturers are coming on board with a wide range of models now available and with many more to come.  Ask your local car dealer when they will have an EV on their lot that you can test drive.

The Challenge:

*New*I will buy “electric” when I replace my current vehicle. FACT: A typical gas-powered passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. – Source

Community Carbon Challenge is now on Instagram

The Carbon Footprint of Food – Bonus Quick N Delish!

 We have talked about growing your own, buying local, wasting less, eating plant based once a week. Well what else?   Answer – more of all the above!

“Diet for a Small Planet” was first published in 1971, 50 years ago.

In the 1974 updated version pictured here, the Author Frances Moore Lappe wrote “ relying more on non-meat protein sources, we can eat in a way that both maximizes the earth’s potential to meet our nutritional needs and, at the same time, minimizes the disruption of the earth necessary to sustain us.”

Since then these sentiments have become an urgent call to change the way we eat and grow our food.

Food production is responsible for up to a third of greenhouse gas emissions around the world.  Agriculture alone could raise the Earth’s average temperature more than 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures.

Think about growing your own food, learn how to can, dry, or preserve and when you shop consider a food’s carbon footprint before you buy.

And now the fun part – A welcome addition to the Carbon Challenge – Quick N Delish! Susan Biehn Smith’s recipe videos combine plant-based ingredients, ease of preparation and superb taste. Although her teaching is light and humorous, her message is seriously rooted in concern for the changing climate. Each recipe includes a downloadable pdf.  Find it all –here.

The Challenge:

*New* – I will think more about the carbon footprint of the food I eat.  FACT: 70% of the deforestation of the Amazon is to provide land for cattle ranches.  Source

GROW YOUR OWN – Vegetables

Growing your own food is a great way to save money, get fit, and reduce your carbon footprint-and you can grow your own vegetables without chemicals.  

The average meal travels 1,200 kilometres from the farm to plate. Food that is locally grown from your farmer’s market or local grocer is a great way to minimize your environmental impact, but growing your own food takes it to the next level.

Turn your yard or even the smallest of spaces such as a balcony or patio into a food garden!  If you are short on space, grow up instead of out.  People are crafting their own vertical gardens out of all kinds of materials.  

If you have no space, there is a growing movement to set up community gardens.  Check out what’s happening close to where you live.  If you have children, encourage them to join in too.

Find great gardening tips from the “Queen of Green” here

And “How to Get the Most from a Small Garden” here

Now is the time to dream, plan your garden, browse seed catalogues (most are available on-line) and order seeds. You may find the seed you need at a local store but if you order seeds on-line look for venders that use Canada Post and use sustainable packaging.

One of our favorites is Veseys in PEI who also offer a free downloadable growing guide Others include Stokes Seeds, OSC Seeds, William Dam Seeds, Richters herbs (herb specialists), Heritage Harvest Seed in Manitoba (Specializing in rare and endangered heirloom seed)… For trees try Hardy fruit trees in Quebec. Yes trees via Canada Post.

Enjoy browsing!  Note: If you buy non-hybrid, heirloom species, you can save the seeds from the best producers, dry them, and use them for the next growing season.

The Challenge:

*New* – Grow Your Own – “I will grow as much of my own food as I possibly can – a great way to save money, get fit and reduce my carbon footprint..”  FACT: The average meal travels 1,200 kilometres from the farm to plateSource

It’s a New Year and we ‘ve added a New Category to our
Community Carbon Challenge – The Other 20%.

SHOP LOCAL – to reduce your carbon footprint.

Lockdowns have accelerated the move to online shopping, with global e-commerce sales expected to more than double by 2022.

While online shopping is convenient, it requires an army of centralized warehouses, planes, delivery trucks, and packaging that wreaks havoc on the environment. 

According to a recent report released by Oceana, Amazon alone generated 465 million pounds of fossil based plastic packaging waste in 2019 enough to circle the Earth 500 times (in the form of plastic air pillows)

When you shop locally you lower the carbon footprint of the goods you purchase by reducing the transport and packaging they require. When you make a purchase, from a local independent retailer, the money you spend stays in your community and supports local families. When you “shop local” you also embrace what makes your community unique.

Many restaurants are offering delivery and pickup but check for delivery options at places other than restaurants. Your local produce vendor, hardware, toy store, flower shop, bookstore or clothing boutique may not have their usual storefront, but many are providing delivery or curbside pickup.


*New* – Shop Local – I will whenever possible buy the goods and services I need from a local business.  FACT: We all like to buy stuff online but Amazon alone generated 465 million pounds of fossil based plastic packaging waste in 2019 enough to circle the Earth 500 times (in the form of plastic air pillows)  Source

REPAIR Everything TO REDUCE your CARBON Footprint

 It prolongs the lifespan of an item and reduces the demand for new. It conserves resources and saves you money. It keeps items out of landfill.  It incentivizes quality production, decreases toxic mining, and creates jobs in independent repair shops.

With product supply chains extending half-way around the world or more, repair cuts carbon footprints by reducing the need for long distance shipping.

Find out more here

When you repair you – learn about how things work, experience a sense of accomplishment, preserve heirloom and unique items.

But how do I repair stuff? You tube videos and the resources at i-fixit are just two of the great resources available.


*New* – Repair Everything –  I will repair whenever possible rather than throw away and replace.  FACT:  2020 was the year in which the weight of “human-made mass”—all the stuff we’ve built and accumulated—exceeded the weight of biomass on the planet.   Source

The Carbon Footprint of Getting Dressed

“For today’s kids fashion is less about fitting in and more about making choices that reflect their own identity…being able to ‘do something’ – upcycling, customizing or reusing rather than discarding”

This simple combo creates 76 kg CO2e – the equivalent of driving from Toronto to Ottawa:  jeans,pair of running trainers, cotton t-shirt, polyamide/polyester jacket, underwear

The apparel industry is responsible for 8 percent of carbon emissions and a third of microplastic pollution in our oceans. Clothing manufacturing gobbles up enough freshwater to fill 32 million Olympic-size pools every year.

Buying a used garment extends its life on average by 2.2 years, which reduces its carbon, waste and water footprint by 73 percent.


*New*- The Carbon Footprint of Getting Dressed – I will buy fewer new clothes, repair what I have, and look for good used clothing. FACT:  Buying a used garment extends its life on average by 2.2 years, reducing its carbon, waste and water footprint by 73 percent.  Source

The Foodprint of Food Packaging

Modern food packaging provides a way to make food safe, reliable, shelf-stable and clean. Unfortunately, most packaging is designed as single-use,  To minimise the negative effects of packaging on the environment, we need to reduce packaging waste.

The carbon footprint of plastic (LDPE or PET, polyethylene) is about 6 kg CO2 per kg of plastic

We can all help reverse this trend. When you shop:

  • carry a reusable water bottle and /or coffee cup with you
  • use reusable grocery bags
  • buy unpackaged food whenever possible
  • buy food that can be transported home in your own refillable container
  • when packaging is necessary, look for foods with the least packaging

According to the CBC Documentary  Plastic Wars the problem is only going to get worse. By 2050, it’s estimated the global production of plastic will triple. As the oil and gas industry — which provides the source materials for plastics — faces a future of declining demand for fuel, it has turned to other markets.


*New* – The “Foodprint” of Food Packaging.  I will buy foods with less packaging when I grocery shop. FACT: The carbon footprint of plastic (LDPE or PET, polyethylene) is about 6 kg CO2 per kg of plastic.   Source

Energy Vampires

It is called “phantom” or “standby” power, and it could account for up to 10 per cent of your home’s energy use. The average Canadian home has 25 or more electronic devices that use phantom power, producing about 157 kg CO2 e, costing you about $150 a year.  See how much energy your electronics really use and the top ten ways to fight the phantoms.

Find smart ways to save in every room of your house from Hydro One in the Phantom Power Room-by-Room Guide

Pledge to reduce your carbon footprint here


*New* – “Phantom” or “standby” Power –  I will unplug electronic devices that are not being used. FACT: The average Canadian home has 25 or more electronic devices that use phantom power, producing about 157 kg CO2 e, costing about $150 a year.  source 

The impact of tires on your Carbon Footprint and your Health

Your tire inflation and tire maintenance practices can play an important role in reducing the impact of personal vehicles on the environment and health.

  • How? Underinflated tires increase fuel consumption.
  • In fact, every additional litre of fuel your vehicle uses, will release 2.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2) – a major greenhouse gas.
  • Collectively, this means that improper tire maintenance practices waste over 500 million litres of fuel and cause an additional 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 to be emitted into the atmosphere.
  • Improper tire maintenance also shortens the life of your tires. Replacing your tires more often means that more tires go to landfills or recycling, and more energy is then used to produce new tires or to recycle them. Again, this has an impact on the environment and our health.

Driving your vehicle with just one tire underinflated by 56 kPa (8 psi) will increase your fuel consumption by 4%, costing you money and releasing extra emissions into the atmosphere.

Find out more – Here


*New*– I will check my tire pressure at least once a month.  FACT: Driving your vehicle with just one tire underinflated by 56 kPa (8 psi) will increase your fuel consumption by 4%, costing you money and releasing extra emissions into the atmosphere.   .Source