Fight, Flight or Maybe Just Better Preparedness? Thoughts on COVID-19 and Climate Change

MATT & VASU: We are writing a blog post after what seems like a decade – well, six months to be more precise (last post on October 2019)! Ever since our last post, we’ve gotten married in India (a blog post for another time), trying to plan a Canadian reception, getting through busy days at work and school as well as dealing with the biggest worldwide issues in 2020 – like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although we usually talk about our experiences with changing our carbon footprint, this blog post is a bit more urgent and relevant to what’s going on around the world today. As most of you know, COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic by the WHO since March 11, 2020 – just 11 days ago! Feels like a lifetime ago because so much has happened since then – countries closing their borders, international travel winding down, economies are showing volatility and might be heading towards a global recession, food shortages are being caused due to people’s hoarding mentality and things like toilet paper/hand sanitizers are running out.

In order to address the fear that COVID-19 will infect everyone and at the same time, it feels like the world is gearing towards a shift in day-to-day life. Suddenly we have social distancing in place (upside: an increase in contact with friends and family through social media/skype etc), offices are making employees work from home (upside: cutting down carbon dioxide emissions from daily commuting) and people want to support communities more (upside: supporting more local business in innovative ways).

All the business-as-usual (at work, communities and even at home) has suddenly stopped and we think a lot more people are faced with the idea of sudden change (including us!). Which is why it made us reflect on what exactly was “business-as-usual” for us – why commute when you can work remotely? Why travel when you can stay at home and enjoy a nice evening together? Why go to different places unnecessarily (including multiple trips to the grocery store or for non-essential things) when you can plan and make one trip? It’s because of COVID-19 that we’ve had to put a break on our “life-as-usual” and think about what was really necessary and what was being done to fit the social norm/because it had no consequences – a lesson we will continue into life after COVID-19 as well (especially given that climate impacts are around the corner!)

But the downside of this global pandemic has been the sudden fight and flight response among people (who probably never anticipated experiencing such sudden change in their lives). Since both of us have a risk averse nature, we always thought about different scenarios (both good and bad ones), especially given climate impacts and of where and how our lives would turn out in the future. For instance, would we want to live in a place that could be experiencing greater flooding/wildfires/heatwaves in the future? The answer is no and our life-decisions have always been based on such basic risk/climate information. But sadly, not everyone thinks in these terms because decision-making is more geared towards the short-term. Yet the irony is that all global phenomenas like climate change or pandemics, are impacted by short-term decisions (things we can change now) having long-term consequences (how bad the future will turn out).

Taking COVID-19 as an example, we see more countries encouraging social distancing (staying at home to avoid unnecessary spread), yet it becomes hard to do if there is no immediate impact, you can’t see the benefits right away or it has an economic loss of some sorts – the best example for a short-term decision with a long-term impact! And yet, this is hard for people to implement in their daily lives because we are all part of some social/work/traditional routine. We see this in places which are used to being social/community-oriented as well as how it affects our present or near-future plans. One of the reasons why we are not prepared to change with the times so quickly, is the lack of willingness to anticipate risk events and change itself.

Climate change and COVID-19 definitely have things in common where global change is coming, whether or not we like it. So a good way to deal with massive societal change (in good times and bad) – is to see how we can prepare for it in advance. In climate change studies (where I work) as well as risk mitigation (where Matt works), we use scenario analysis to see how we will react to different situations (the good, the bad, and the ugly).

Similarly, if we are going to get through this with our heads on our shoulders (without fighting with each other or escaping into denial), we need to prepare like never before. A good first step is having a purposeful mental health strategy that allows one to stay up to date with information (reading the news once a day or taking an hour to speak about it with friends and family everyday), but in a way that doesn’t create more panic and allows us to keep up with the evolving nature of the pandemic. It’s highly necessary that we keep functioning in a way that keeps our immunity high in such times of unexpected and ongoing stresses.

So self-care is important and take time to do something for yourself every day – whether it is watching a feel-good movie, sports highlights of your favourite teams, making good meals at home, reading a good book, partaking in a old or new hobby, going for a walk (we’ve been doing this everyday and it really helps being out in nature – but make sure to keep distance with others out as well) and talking to your loved ones.

When talking with your friends and family, its important to not overwhelm anyone – whether it is “why are you freaking out vs. why aren’t you freaking out” types of conversations. Since you will react to the stress of a pandemic in your own way (some might overreact whereas others might under-react based on their personalities), it is important to reassure yourself that balance is the key and that you can learn from each other. Those that are overreacting (e.g. it is the end of the world) should learn to take a step back and see that this will end eventually (once a vaccine is out or we are able to flatten the curve). Those that are under-reacting (e.g. going about their lives with no significant changes) should realize that this is an important situation where their actions and decisions impact not only themselves but others that are more vulnerable (or that depend on them) as well. Thinking and more importantly talking about different scenarios (such as self-isolation, community spread, changing resource-use and affecting future plans) will help both types of people get through this in a helpful way.

Applying it our lives: we see our own future plans changing due to COVD-19 impacts, but right now the best course of action is to be proactive in planning how that change will come about as well as taking new/sudden changes day-by-day (so as to not overwhelm our mental health).

In terms of the short-term planning (now to 6 months): if one of us gets sick, how do we live in the same house? Do we have enough cleaning supplies to make sure we don’t spread it further? If we don’t have access to food/are too sick to cook, do we have enough stock to get through for a few days? Do we have enough medicines/energy drinks etc. to get us through a few weeks? Are we making sure to wash our hands after coming home/going out? Do we have enough stock of fruits and veggies to eat healthy? How are we able to maintain an exercise routine at home?

In terms of the mid-term planning (6 months to 1 year): What insurance options are there and what should we be getting for things like our wedding reception/planned vacations etc.? How often should we be keeping in touch with our families if we can’t seem them over the next few months to a year? Are we taking care of our health and immunity through good eating and exercise routines?

Long-term planning (1 year and over): Are we saving enough to get us through things like a recession or big economic losses? What kind of decisions to make around life-changing milestones such as having kids/getting pets/where to live? If this situation happens again (a high probability, given that melting arctic is releasing old and new viruses), how should we be prepared for it?

You should think about making lists like these so that you are better prepared (but keep in mind the context of where you live and your current lifestyles). If you are able to purposefully plan for different scenarios, it will not only ease your mind, but also give you a plan of action when it comes to unexpected yet long-term global changes like an ongoing pandemic or climate impacts in our futures.

To end and summarize our suggestions, here’s a great video by Astronaut Chris Hadfield on a guide to self-isolation:

Fast Fashion or Faux Fashion? Our Take on Clothes, Shopping and Buying Secondhand

Last summer while visiting New York City, we saw 2018 The Met Gala display! The Met Gala is known as the “Superbowl of the Fashion Industry”.

Imagine This: The latest line of amazing new colours, trendy new styles and ridiculously cheap deals! Malls are lined with the latest sales (fall, spring, summer and whichever holiday falls in between) where all the previous season’s inventory needs to be sold or gotten rid off before the shop gets flooded with new clothes and shoppers wanting to buy a new outfit or two. We’ve all been there – and it feels great to go into a clothes store, full of excited and smiling people who are only too happy to offer you colourful new things (who doesn’t love retail therapy?).

VASU: As much as I love shopping and buying new things, what we don’t realize is the huge amount of waste and carbon footprint the fashion industry has! One aspect of being in a highly connected and globalized world is that it has led to a greater level of consumerism than ever before!

Although it has brought many benefits, it has also led to the era of fast fashion (or the rapid production of new clothes in response to the latest fashion trends and fulfilling consumer demand). But remember, this is Catch-22 problem at its best – the clothes get created because we buy them, and the more they create, the more the demand for new things rises (because who doesn’t love new things)!

But it is in this loop where we don’t realize how much it affects our environment and the climate. For example:

  1. The fashion industry alone produces 5% of the total global emissions. Just one industry!
  2. Textile production is one of the most polluting industries (1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 every year – that is more than the combined emissions of international flights and maritime shipping!). For those of you interested in the carbon emissions from flights, check out our earlier blog post –
  3. More than 60% of the textile produced in the world happens in China and India (parts of which rely on coal-powered electricity, and only increase the carbon footprint of the textile). This doesn’t mean we stop buying clothes coming from these countries, but rather understand that it takes more energy to make and probably harms the local environment there in terms of air pollution. So think twice before you throw a dress or shirt away!
  4. Polyester or the synthetic material (especially those in your athletics or wrinkle-free clothes) can be quite bad. According to this scientific article: “A single polyester t-shirt has emissions of 5.5 kg CO2e, compared with 2.1 kg CO2e for one made from cotton. However cotton is a thirsty crop and its production has greater impacts on land and water.” So remember to pick cotton but use it for longer!
  5. It is estimated that almost 60% of clothes made in a year get sent to the landfill or incineration, due to limited recycling or reusing options. That is one garbage truck per second to a landfill!

However, not all is despair! There are some new and exciting initiatives coming out:

  1. In 1993, an outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, made polyester fleece jackets from recycled plastic bottles.
  2. Approximately 75% of Nike’s products claim to use now contain recycled plastic products. A big part of this is their Football Kits – where some jerseys are set to contain 12 to 18 recycled plastic bottles!
  3. Some big name stores like H&M, North Face and even Levi’s takes your old clothes to help them get recycled. However, be careful of doing this as it is known to cause more harm than good! For example, less than 13% of the clothes you recycle actually get turned into new clothes or products. Most of them just end up in landfills or get incinerated.

It is interesting to look at all of this and say that things are moving along and awareness is growing! However, the problem of carbon footprint as well as water use and waste, which comes from new clothes and more shopping will never reduce if one just keeps buying new clothes every few weeks.

Another way to make sure these big-brand/fast-fashion companies are accountable is to ensure that they know what consumers want – more energy and water efficient production methods, better recycling, better employment practices in the industry and the use of long-lasting and sustainable fabrics for a circular economy. Talk about it with friends and family, and make sure to think about the impact of a sale or going on a shopping spree next time.

MATT: Nowadays, more people are also starting to look at secondhand clothes or thrift stores for reducing their environmental footprint. A few years ago, I wasn’t a huge fan of shopping for second hand items, specifically for used clothes. I didn’t really think that thrift shops ever really had anything good and thought: Why would someone give it away if it was so good?

Thrift shopping for clothes isn’t about going out every single time and finding something amazing. There are definitely times where you go and don’t find anything in comparison to the times when you do find that one awesome thing.

In Canada, we have a thrift store called Value Village, where Vasu and I have been countless times. Many times it takes sorting through a lot to find something one likes and as Vasu says, “The treasure hunt is exciting!” Like a couple years ago when we were shopping for Halloween costume accessories, I found a Hugo Boss blazer – yep a real Boss for just $15.

There are many such good quality clothes that are barely used, but end up making it to the thrift store.

Another thing I have found through shopping secondhand is that older clothes were of way better quality than what is being made now. When you go to big places like H&M, the styles might be trendy, but they don’t last at all. You can wear it maybe for a year and then it will stretch and wear.

With secondhand clothes, they usually last way longer and seem to hold up even after much use. Even though most people say this now, but the quality just isn’t the same anymore. Here’s a link to an article that describes how to spot bad quality clothes: 10 signs that your clothing is actually low quality.

The rise of consumerism in fashion has to do with our need to always be on trend. However, it seems that older 90s styles are making a comeback nowadays. And with a variety of styles and fashion eras offered at a thrift store, you can even make your own style, get what you like and rock it! We can reduce how much we use by reusing perfectly good clothes that someone else has handed off.

Here’s a cool yet used pair of shorts that I found in the local thrift store in the summer. There’s definitely been a rise in the number of trendy looking and sophisticated thrift or secondhand stores in Canada over the last few years!

An interesting thing we’ve noticed lately is that most people (especially in Millenials and Gen-Z) like to wear similar (and fast-fashion) styles – but we forget that sometimes wearing comfortable clothes and finding your own style doesn’t always have to be what’s in at the moment.

All this isn’t to say that if you find that one “must-have” piece of clothing that you should avoid it, but rather that consumerism is telling us we always need new and cool things. One trick to know what you really want (ask yourself if you want it vs. need it), take your time (take a day or two to think about it, and come back if you really want it) and limit how many clothes you buy (keeping it down to a handful a year – and buying secondhand is even better!).

P.S. If you’re wondering why we haven’t written a blog post in sooo long, it’s because life suddenly got busy for both of us. A few things happened since we last wrote to you: Matt got a new job and switched careers, I started my PhD, and a month ago my grandma underwent some major health issues (being the amazingly strong woman – she is on her way to recovery now!) so it felt like taking a break was much needed.

But knowing that life is only going to get busier, we hope to keep writing as and when we get time. Our goal right now is once a month 🙂 but please feel free to reach out and let us know if you want to read more! It will only serve to motivate us to keep going.

Is Having A Highly Sensitive Personality (HSP) the Common Link for People That Have A High Concern for Climate Change?

Self-awareness and learning is one step towards figuring out the solutions to climate change. We saw this very insightful question while on a nature hike.

VASU: So this blog post is a bit different than our usual ones – where Matt and I share stories from our everyday life and connect it to climate change and carbon footprints.

Today’s blog is me sharing some thoughts and hopefully a creative insight that has been on my mind for a while now. It all started last year with a conversation among friends, who like me, are studying environmental studies and doing research linked to various aspects of climate change.

Our individual research looks into vastly different things like finance, water and even social change – yet what links us is our passion to see the world change for the better. What’s more interesting is that all of us come from different parts of the world and have vastly different upbringings. Yet we share this common passion for the environment so strongly that it made me wonder: what is the common link?

For me, it’s been a question at the back of my mind ever since we had the conversation. However, it was only in the last few weeks, when life happened and all well-laid plans of starting a PhD in the fall (for those of you who don’t know me, academia is my dream career!) seemed to be on the brink of falling apart, that I had an ‘aha’ moment.

The reason why we haven’t posted very often the last month has been because of a bunch of reasons – one being career shifts (for both of us) and also figuring out immigration issues. Dealing with multiple stresses really doesn’t help when the world itself seems to be going in the wrong direction (see – Arctic having wildfires and heatwaves or countries moving away from democracy or even a potential global food crisis caused by climate change).

For most people it seems like the world is moving forward, but for me, in times of higher stress, it seems especially overwhelming. It was over the last few days that I happened to come across a timely article in Psychology Today about Highly Sensitive People (HSP). HSP is a personality trait highlighted by psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron in the mid-90s.

According to Aron, “Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) are individuals with genetic characteristics that makes them deeply attuned and sensitive to their environments and relationships. They have high levels of empathy and emotional responsiveness – because their nervous system is wired slightly differently and is more prone to sensory information.  All this attunement and processing means they are also often easily overstimulated. Given this high stimulation, HSPs also often display great creativity, insight, passion and caring for others” She mentions that about 20% of the population possesses this trait and if you are curious, you can self-evaluate via the HSP Scale.

This peaked my curiosity as I was intrigued by the description – it helped explain what I’ve always known about myself but unable to put into words. I am a person that cares a lot, even about things that do not affect me directly – sometimes this is a good thing as it creates more empathy and makes one concerned about abstract things like the environment or climate change, whereas other times (like over the past few weeks) it can be overwhelming.

My researcher mindset immediately pushed me to critically evaluate the concept from the point of science and what academic studies say on the topic. So here’s a small summary of what I found on HSP research studies:

  1. Changes in environmental conditions can cause a shift in our gene structure even in short generation times – which means climate change will have a direct impact in how future generations adapt and more importantly how they react psychologically to it.
  2. Apart from humans, animal studies show that approximately 100 other species (like fruit flies, monkeys and even certain fishes among others) have this minority trait. This is interesting as it shows that there is no ideal species type, but rather versions that can allow one species to survive various environmental dangers or changes. This is super important, if we are talking about Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest and the evolution of species – which means that personality traits in humans might actually play a role when it comes to climate change adaptation!
  3. Being HSP is only an advantage if its in the minority – for example, if a particular patch of grass is especially nutritious, and if all cows go there to eat it – there is no value in it. Aron gives the example of a traffic jam and if only a few people know the shortcuts, it serves the situation better as traffic might reduce. But if everyone goes through those short cuts, then it is no longer of any value and creates another traffic jam.
  4. Another study looking at this trait in Rhesus monkeys show that those monkeys that were paired with more skilled mothers vs. ordinary mothers were raised with huge advantages. This study done by Soumi (2011), showed that those raised by skilled mothers were found to have better resilience to stress and in fact became leaders of their social group. This is amazing news for HSPs – as it means their high responsiveness can be used to guide others when it comes to stressful times like those posed by climate change.
  5. According to Aron, HSPs exhibit four very interesting traits, which is seen under the acronym of DOES:
Walking home yesterday, I spotted this weird but cool bug on a tree bark. Notice how well it camouflages with the bark. I couldn’t help but notice it 🙂
A more obvious view of the bug: seeing it sideways to the bark.

Now that you know what being an HSPs means, it is important to remember that genes are not destiny, but rather a predisposition at the most. That is why, if you are an HSP, I suggest using your high responsiveness, empathy and creativity to your advantage and for the good of others (especially when it comes to climate change).

Listening to an AOM podcast of Prof. John Kounios, it seems that for creativity and insights to kick-in, there is also a need for safe space. Mood is the single most powerful factor when it comes to inspiring powerful insights. It is much like thinking on a full stomach, rather than an empty one. This is why if you are not an HSP, then you are even more integral to creating the ‘safe’ space (much like that skilled mother monkey) that is needed to allow creative minds to come up with innovative solutions related to climate change. For me, in times of stress, it means surrounding myself with support systems that not only understand my personality (part of which also means becoming more self-aware), but in doing so, allow me to take chances with crazy ideas that might just be insightful.

Although I think mental health is top priority, sometimes a safe space can also mean physical – a place to escape the noise and reorganize thoughts to figure out how to get back to being balanced. Walking or taking nature hikes is a great way to cut overstimulation that life can throw at you from time to time.

Being in a safe space (mentally and also physically) has allowed us to share personal stories that could inspire others to look at sensitivity a bit differently. Whether it is about the environment, the people around you and also in terms of climate change – sensitivity is a trait that should be treasured rather than dismissed. Because noticing every little change (including hotter days, more frequent extreme weather, more floods, and a less rich biodiversity) can matter if we are to address our carbon footprints and climate adaptation in time.

On How Grandparents Can Teach Us A Thing Or Two About A Better World

Is it a coincidence that the Lorax reminds us of a lovable grandfather? We think not 🙂 Source:

VASU: Today morning, in my daily video chat with my parents I had an interesting conversation with my grandmother. Usually she’s based in our hometown (which is a few hundred kilometers away from Mumbai), but has been temporarily visiting since temperatures have soared up (with 40 degree Celsius days – which is unusual even for us tropical folks) and water availability has gone down (currently the State of Maharashtra in India is facing a bad drought – and climate change makes it worse). I usually make it a point to call her once a month and catch up, but in these last few days in Mumbai she seems less of her usual self. Which makes sense given that her routine is interrupted and she’s had to adjust to a different sort of life (even though it may be temporary).

I think we all know the feeling when that happens – our routines are important reminders to us that life is all about having safety, security and a sense of certainty that tomorrow is not going to look any drastically different than today. For me routine is a concept I’ve had to grapple with for several years as I lived on an 8 month lease during the school year and on a suitcase that changed depending on the season (whether it was in Canada or in India). However, that is a different story for a another day 😉

Today’s story is actually based on some thoughts reading this book called Doughnut Economics (by Kate Raworth) and the idea of living in within the Doughnut or this “safe and just space for humanity” and also why connecting with our grandparents or a previous generation might teach us a thing or two about inspiration and the road ahead.

Raworth makes an interesting case for how society is functioning on economic models and ideas that were written 70 years ago. These theories fixated on abstract things like GDP as an indicator of human progress. She mentions that in the current world, progress indicators need to look quite different if we are to save our futures in time from climate change. Her solution is to simply start caring more and use these “touchy-feely” economic ideas (of social, environmental and human progress) to ensure that our decisions are actually humanistic in nature. She says, “today we have economies that grow, whether or not they make us thrive; what we need are economies that make us thrive, whether or not they grow”.

Around the same time that these traditional ideas of economic growth took off, some of our grandparents lived through one of the most turbulent times in the world – with World War II just ending and the birth of modern globalized society starting to emerge from its ruins. We all know how far we’ve come in that short span of 7 decades – where collectively humanity has overcome some of the greatest obstacles such as worldwide health epidemics (small pox, polio, Ebola just to name a few), travelled to the moon (and now Mars), reduced poverty a great deal and innovated technology that makes connect with each other than ever before.

But yet, we see countries are trying to build walls to keep diversity and change out. One example is India – where general elections just took place and the grounds for winning was nationalism (which in India means a religious majority winning on regressive cultural issues like cows, patriarchy, among other things). It took me a while to accept the fact that the world’s biggest democracy (consisting of millions of educated individuals) choose to elect a government based on this notion of so-called Indian tradition and why things like climate, food, water and good jobs were not the most important issues for the future.

MATT: For several people that are educated, empowered and consider themselves to be global citizens, it becomes hard to understand why others do not think that way when it seems more progressive, fairer and more inclusive alternative than the opposite. Yet we see populist politics rising every where – from Trump’s US to UK’s Brexit and from India’s nationalism to other authoritarian governments around the world.

VASU: I’ve been trying to figure out why and what is making people think that being regressive is the best option. And one thing crossed my mind as I was talking to my grandmother – is that people do not like change, but more importantly if they have to change (as the future will be when it comes to climate change) it will only happen when they feel safe, a sense of belonging and have certainty that their future is secured. And with all the things that globalization and capitalism brings, it has also brought with it a sense of uncertainity, insecurity and unreliability on those that are around us – making it the opposite environment to foster a safe space for large-scale and systems-level change.

As humans, we have a strong need to belong and feel accepted. But more recently, in the age of changing cultural identities and technological distractions, our sense of community has definitely taken a hit. It is in uncertain times like these that talking to our grandparents might teach us a thing or two about dealing with change. A good quote from another blog that we follow says this:

It’s the duty of Millennials to offer a wormhole, via our personal memories of our grandparents, that keeps alive the reality of certain truths: that there are times when the forces of good and evil really do starkly collide, all men (and women) must be ready to serve as citizen-soldiers, and mass solidarity and sacrifice is required. And that it’s possible to make such sacrifices and then modestly act as if doing so was really no big deal.

Similarly, my grandmother is someone that has lived through such times of volatility, raised four children mostly by herself and even managed to start farming afterwards. She’s been inspirational when she has shown confidence in the face of adversity. But today when I asked her about taking a walk in the park next door, she answered that she wouldn’t feel comfortable going alone.

For a woman who has led an unapologetic life and broke some stereotypes along the way, it made me wonder when did she start needing someone to be there when things changed. She, like the world war veterans, has had a life of ups and downs and yet now she falters when it comes to change. We often forget that grandparents are a vital source of knowledge of the past, of mistakes to avoid and of adventures to have. For anyone, old age is scary enough – but combine that with climate change and extremes (whether it is ideological or weather-related), it makes me realize that keeping those wise-old branches nurtured and feeling treasured is an important means of dealing with change.

MATT: But getting people involved in change can be a difficult task when you are dealing with someone who is more set in their ways of thinking – especially those that are one generation apart. For instance, I remember talking to my Nana about climate change more than a decade ago. We were in the middle of a cold winter and a cold spring, and she mentioned that she found it interesting that people talked about global warming considering it was so cold that year. But even as a 13-year old I knew that climate change and global warming were not just linked to the weather getting warmer. It had an impact on the earth’s climate – making hot days hotter and cold days colder. I remember saying there might be less of a distinction between seasons in the future, and now decades later we are finally starting to see it happen. Of course my Nana listened as any grandparent would, but I feel just talking about it regularly with someone who might be very set in their ways (a grandparent, parent or even someone older than you), can make a bit of a difference.

VASU: Yes, I think we need to remind those of an earlier generation that doing new things shouldn’t have to be necessity or anxiety-driven. By keeping a connection with the old and the new, we can prove that the future is better when we aren’t looking back at out-dated traditions (like in the case of India or other populist movements) or making mistakes of a past that isn’t sustainable anymore.

Today I also heard a podcast on this new book called Power of Agency – The Seven Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions and Create a Life on Your Own, and it made me realize that change often comes when something matters to you. This book is really interesting as it talks on the power of agency or confidence to do something different without feeling overwhelmed about it. It describes that isolation is the kryptonite to human agency – where it diminishes our ability to accept change/evolution. And who better to understand the cycle of change better than our grandparents.

I found it interesting that the booked talked about our ability to adapt to changing times through the 7 Principles of Agency, which are:

  1. Control our stimuli (keep those phones and distractions away!)
  2. Associate selectively (surround yourself with positive people)
  3. Move (endorphins through exercise make people happy!)
  4. Position yourself as a learner (in all situations – no exceptions)
  5. Manage your emotions (as though it is a balancing act)
  6. Check your intuition (not impulsively but as a source of additional data)
  7. Deliberate first and then act (think -> deliberate -> action)

MATT & VASU: So keep your phones down and take a walk (maybe literally) with your grandparents down the memory lane – ask them what stories they have, how they learned to accept change and make them feel valued before you start expecting them to understand today’s problems like climate change. These very human and personal connections are what will keep us going when change (including climate change) inevitably arrives in our lives.

The Plastic Dilemma

MATT: With the weather getting warmer and summer finally around the corner, it has been great to get outdoors and go for walks around town on weeknights and weekends. While its always nice to get out and enjoy a beautiful sunset and some fresh air, it is also fun to treat yourself every once in a while. On one such walk, we went to our local Dairy Queen for the first ice cream of the summer.

Of course my sweet tooth was absolutely craving more than just an ice cream cone – and given this long cold winter, it had been months since we had gone out and enjoyed a nice cool treat in the sun. Since this was the first ice cream of the season, I went all in and got a chocolate fudge cookie sundae 🙂 Not only was it delicious, but I couldn’t wait to go back and have another one. On finishing the delicious chocolate sundae, I realized that it had come in a plastic container, and there was nowhere to put that plastic container (and plastic spoon) other than in the garbage. Since started this blog, I have become more aware of things that are bad for the environment and one of the biggest culprits is the abundant use of plastic.

Sad to see plastic bags lining the branches of a beautiful tree on our evening walks 🙁

VASU: With each year almost 8 million tonnes of plastic being dumped into the ocean, it is no wonder that even the deepest parts of the planet are now plagued by plastic. Recently I saw how plastic wrappers and bags were found in the deepest part of the ocean – in the Mariana Trench, where even light doesn’t reach!! Imagine that, our destructive habits are now changing vulnerable ecosystems that have existed for thousands of years, even before our species came into existence.

According to a California-based non-profit called Plastic Oceans, microplastics are now found everywhere – including in food, drinking water and even our blood streams. Countries like Canada are big waste producers and those of you that follow the news must have heard about the recent scandal about how Western countries are exporting their plastics to developing ones like the Philippines.

This definitely makes us think that the blue box (plastic recycling we all feel so good about) is now ending up half way around the world – creating different problems (like a public health crisis due to plastic burning and land contamination). I hate to say it, but this is a classic example of a “not-in-my-backyard” attitude and it is definitely not helping reduce our plastic addiction.

Here is an excellent article in the CBC that talks about how our consumption-based lifestyles (where even small things like buying take-out) are making recycling products like plastics unsustainable. This article also talks about how the recycling industry is unable to keep up the demand that every disposable plastic (think about what’s in your fridge – from yogurt containers to individually wrapped cheese slices to frozen veggie bags) is now bringing. Yet governments or municipalities are not creating more recycling centres or even changing the supply chain (from plastic to zero waste) to meet this demand.

MATT: When you really think about it, there is plastic that comes with all foods that we buy or things we use. When we go to the grocery store, basically all the processed food is packaged or wrapped in some sort of plastic and so is the produce. Cucumbers, peppers, coconuts, even avocados are individually wrapped to “preserve freshness” and provide “appropriate portion sizes” to the consumer. Foods that are wrapped in plastic and then boxed in plastic are then purchased and placed into plastic grocery bags. We then take it home and throw that plastic away.

MATT & VASU: And with more and more landfills getting filled up and even other countries (like China and the Philippines) are finally saying no to waste – does the responsibility not lie with our elected representatives or even our large grocery-chains to deal with the plastic problem. So here you may ask, if it is their issue, why should we individuals care? Well, simply put, you are the ones that elect them or end up buying your weekly groceries from them. And these elected representatives or large grocery-stores need to respond to changing customer and social values if they are to stay relevant. Times are changing, especially with more and more young people getting access to information on harmful impacts of plastic.

We found this really interesting video from CBC marketplace which shows how different families and individuals are changing their habits when it comes to plastics at the grocery store.

CBC Marketplace video on how buying plastic-free groceries is harder than you think, but the solution lies in individual and collective action on demanding change.

Sadly, we have all seen the videos of how disposable single-use plastic straws can create havoc on marine life. The plastic dilemma is not an issue for just the government or companies. It is a question for all of us that use it in our daily lives, as to how much do we think we can do something about it?

MATT: Even if we put in the extra effort and sort and recycle that plastic most of it doesn’t end up being properly recycled. People are aware of all the needless plastic we consume and are willing to use less of it, however retailers find it cheaper and easier to use plastic to ship and sell foods so they keep doing it. When we go out shopping, we need to make a conscious effort to choose foods that have less or no plastics – that way retailers will notice our changing purchasing habits. It is a small step, but it definitely has a big impact on how many plastic bags we use!

MATT & VASU: So here are some tips from our life that can help you reduce your own plastic footprint:

  1. Bring reusable plastic bags when you go grocery shopping – now we are buying reusable cloth bags to bag produce (like carrots, peppers, beans, tomatoes, apples etc) at the grocery stores. You can check similar ones on Amazon or
  2. Go to your local farmer’s market to buy fresh and non-packaged food. Bring your reusable bags and don’t forget that supporting local is another step towards reducing your grocery’s carbon and travel footprint.
  3. We are looking into switching from plastic resealable bags to getting a compostable and natural alternative called bees wrap. However, this is a choice you can make by looking in the pros and cons of it. If not, try to rewash your plastic reusable bags and reuse them more than once.
  4. Know which plastic can be recycled and which cannot. This is very context and region dependent so make sure to check out what your municipality recommends. For us, here is what the Region of Waterloo recommends.
  5. One interesting tip is to reuse those milk bags and other plastic bags. Here is an article that talks about repurposing them in 11 different ways. If you are into arts and crafts, think of ways you can repurpose them into artwork or even mattresses. Here’s one resource to check out how to turn grocery bags into a rug.
  6. We recently switched from using plastic tupperware to glass tupperware for our lunches as well as in storing things. An excellent online store that is solely dedicated to not using plastic is Life Without Plastic! Check them out and see what cool home and wellness products you can buy, that will make you feel good about taking baby steps to cut your plastic lifestyle.
  7. And lastly, start talking about it! Even if it is just with your friends, partner, kids or colleagues. The first step is always awareness. And the second step is sending a letter or calling your local politician or grocery store to find out what they are doing about transitioning away from plastic.

Food Waste to Food Research

Shopping at the local farmer’s markets is a great way to make sure you have quality, delicious produce for the week.

VASU: This week started off with two things going bad in the fridge. The spinach went soft and the corn on the cob went kinda mushy – not the most ideal week when we were looking forward to having some palak paneer (pureed spinach and paneer) as well as pairing the corn on the cob with our Taco Fridays.

As upset as we were at the Kelvinator aka our fridge (the landlord refuses to upgrade or respond to any of our non-urgent requests), we also shared the blame in this week’s food disaster. To be honest, there have been times before when the food has gone bad due to the Kelvinator having a mind of its own (being from the late 90s, it sometimes gets super cold and other times it goes to room temperature – no wonder food goes bad!). And although we always feel guilty and a bit upset about having to throw food out, since starting this green life challenge to reduce our carbon footprint it makes us even more guilt-riddled than ever. So by sharing even our bad experiences, we hope that you can be inspired to make a change (like we are doing) when it comes to food waste!

Meet the Kelvinator! Okay we are guilty of overstuffing the fridge here -but hosting dinner party’s is no joke 😉

MATT: Another helpful way to look at food waste is how it affects your budget. Throwing out food literally feels like you’re throwing your money in the garbage. In Canada, more than half the food that is produced ends up going to waste at some point in the cycle, whether it be during production, retail or after the consumer has purchased it. It may seem like we’re just throwing out a little bit here and there every week, but the average Canadian household has over $1700 worth of food waste ever year.

Second Harvest, a food rescue organization, estimates that there is over 56 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions are created every year from food waste in Canada alone. A study done by the EU also says that 8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by food waste. The amount of energy that goes into food waste is shocking when you think about all the processes in place from when food is produced to when it is brought home. All the energy that goes into producing the food, then shipping the food to retailers and then transporting it back home for it to not even be eaten is crazy. I remember working my first job as a butcher at the local grocery store and even meat (which has the highest carbon footprint) was thrown out on a daily basis.

Two of the main culprits for avoidable food waste have to do with buying unnecessary amounts of food and not understanding proper storage shelf life for food. People tend get all excited when food items go on sale and end up buying bulk amounts – some of which eventually gets thrown away if it is not eaten in time. We also go to the grocery store and buy food without a plan for the meals we will make that week – this is something we are trying to change in our own lives now. We found that sometimes we bought unnecessary foods that didn’t get eaten because they didn’t go in the meals we made that week.

A simple fix is to plan our meals throughout the week better so that we buy properly for the week ahead. We also need to improve our understanding of how different foods need to be kept. The shelf life of food is drastically impacted by the conditions it is kept in, whether it’s the fridge or at room temperature. Having worked at a grocery store, I know that sometimes we are also too strict about “best-before” dates and take it to mean that after that date the food is automatically no good. These dates are usually very conservative and nothing will happen once it hits midnight on the best before date. If we just make a few simple changes daily in how we purchase and eat food it can have a big impact on the environment in the long-run.

MATT & VASU: The following are some tips we found on this awesome website called Save The Food, which not only helps with food prep ideas and meal plans, but also how to store your food the right way (who knew that eggplants and tomatoes needed to be stored at room temp)! We came across this website while doing research on food waste and how to reduce it when you do meal preps. Another super helpful resource is this video by a YouTube food vlogger called Fablunch: 10 Food Waste Hacks.

A good way to eat different kinds of produce (that is about to expire) is to experiment and make recipes – here is an avocado toast with eggs and cherry tomatoes for breakfast!

Lessons in Water Conservation: From Kitchener to Our Kitchens

Twitter update by City of Kitchener (April 25, 2019)


“You never really know how much you miss something until it’s gone”

This saying has been said so many times that sometimes it feels as though it has lost meaning. However, when the water main broke in downtown Kitchener today, I couldn’t help but realize how important water was and how everyone uses it in their day-to-day lives. The reach of the outage was so widespread as it resulted in a bit of panic among those going to work and schools.

Something as simple as going to wash your hands couldn’t be done because there was no water pressure. It is definitely something you don’t think will ever happen until it does and when that happens life gets disrupted. One can’t imagine even going part of the day without it, let alone possibly a prolonged period of time.

Mistakes like hitting a water main due to construction are uncommon, yet they happen and luckily it is something that the municipality is able to fix right away. But given how climate change is progressing and the lack of readiness to tackle it right now, we have to start thinking about what we can do when we do not have as much water at our disposal.

In a place like Canada, water (and potable or fresh drinking water) is definitely something that we take for granted on a daily basis. There are so many places all over the world where access to water is only available during a few hours of the day. Water can be extremely difficult to come by because its kilometers away or there has been long periods of drought.


In fact, one such place that experiences scarcity of water is in India – especially in the state of Maharashtra (of which Mumbai is the capital). Right now the drought this year is seemingly worse than ever before. Ground water levels are very low, live water storage in reservoirs has dwindled to less than 10% and temperatures have soared (with 40 degrees Celsius being the daily average) with no rainfall relief in sight. I read a very interesting article on this water crisis and how a lot of this is almost man-made. For those of you interested in learning more about how public policies and our actions impact water conservation efforts, check out The Marathwada’s Dry Story.


Yes, I remember being in India when it was middle of the summer and how unbearable the heat was even in those conditions. Having access to water in a part of the world where it is that hot can literally be a life saver. But even today’s experience with water made me realize that soon in Canada we will not just be impacted by water-related events (droughts, flooding or even extreme rainfall) for short periods of time, but the things that we take for granted, like clean drinking water, will be impacted for much longer. This is why it is important to make changes and be conscience of the choices you make now so that there will be more water to use in the future. Doing this we won’t be forced to think about how we could have done things differently and been more careful with water if we had only known better.


Since this was how our day played out today we thought much about water and how important of a resource it is in our daily lives. That is why we wanted to share some interesting tips that we follow when it comes to our own water conservation:

Tweets by the City of Kitchener on how residents can save water by using water efficient shower heads (City of Kitchener, 2019)
  • Be Prepared: Especially when it comes to water, preparedness means having spare bottled water at home incase there is an interruption in the supply or another emergency situation.
  • Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: The 3R’s are important when it comes to water conservation. Reducing usage by either having shorter showers, reusing extra tea kettle water to water plants (after it has cooled ofcourse!), washing dishes in the sink or brushing your teeth without running the tap can all be good starting points.
  • Household Chores: Always do a full load of laundry (and use cold water if you want to save energy too) – it is most efficient in terms of water use. Water your plants at night time, since evaporation is the lowest then. Figure out other ways that you can conserve your water use by combining chores or making them more efficient.
  • Rethink Your Drinking Habits: Use tap water for drinking (it is pristine and safe here in Canada – that’s a luxury most of the world doesn’t get!), put a jug of water in the fridge if you want cold water in the summers, do not buy bottled water (unless absolutely necessary), carry your own bottle when you travel and use public fountains to fill them up.

Taking a Leap with The Great Green Life


Hey everyone!

Welcome to our first blog post and a community that we would like to call The Great Green Life.

On Earth Day 2019, we start our journey as a couple that hopes to make the transition to a more sustainable and eco-friendly living. We know how sad and depressing it is to live in a world where TVs and social media feeds constantly throw at us the bad news on climate change and how we seem to be failing our planet. As millennials, it doesn’t help to know that our future is heading towards rising sea levels, food insecurity, extreme weather, species extinction and environmental conflict. We know that we have all dreamed of a peaceful and stable life, where we can own homes, raise happy children and have fulfilling careers – just like our parents.

Unfortunately, in this tumultuous world, that stable “boring” lifestyle is not a given anymore. The reason why we chose to start a community on how to make life more sustainable, was this uncertainty in how our futures looked and why we need to do our part by reducing this “climate anxiety”. We know it is easy to sit back and complain about how only governments are in-charge of big changes or why politicians need to care more, but the real transformation is already happening when we choose to make small yet impactful changes in our day-to-day lives. It is our consumption, our travel, our food and our lifestyle that gets added up (x7 billion) and affects our planet.

So on this Earth Day, we are choosing to live a less consumptive, less carbon-intensive and less toxic lifestyle instead. Come join us in our journey as a couple that has decided to go green and we hope that it inspires you to make those changes in your life as well. We welcome guest blog posts (so feel free to write to us with your own stories of green living)!

Matt wrote the following story about how we spent Earth Hour earlier this year, and how that got us thinking about living more sustainably and eventually getting the inspiration to start this community.

Spending Our First Earth Hour Together

MATT: With Earth Hour being on a Saturday this year, many ideas come to my mind about fun and interesting things we could go out and do. But being March, it meant going out involved using some kind of power (it is cold and dark out here in Canada, and we would have to drive to our destination which meant using fuel). So instead, this year we decided to stay in and play some cards (decided on UNO) by candlelight and have some Rosé.

Spending this uninterrupted time together (without phones or lights) turned out to be better than anything going out could have provided. Earth hour, as advertised is only one hour, but the time flew by and we played for much longer. Vasu jumped out to an early lead, but we ended up both winning three games. Both our competitive natures came through, but the whole experience itself was great fun. The time spent together, not worrying about what’s happening on social media or the internet was a nice break from the usual routine.

Sometimes we forget how fun just staying in and not doing anything that involves electricity or some kind of power, is sad given how much more enjoyable life can be without it. We automatically think that for something to be fun now we need to be doing something exciting or ‘like’ worthy, but we forget that the best times can be had with those around us and it doesn’t involve our phones, computers or TV. Earth Hour reminds you that the most important things are not electronic, they’re right there in front of us and one doesn’t need power or electricity to enjoy it. That’s what we’ll try to explain with this blog, that you don’t need to always be focused on what’s going on where you are or what trend is popular at the moment – life is always better when you enjoy it with people close to you. And sometimes disconnecting and spending quality time with those close to you is what often gets overlooked when it comes to changing our lifestyles.

A snapshot of our monthly electricity consumption.
Love how our electricity provider gives us an idea of what 1 kWh means. Perspective makes all the difference.