reducing emmissons

Blog Post

Planting The Seeds of Climate Action in Your Home: A Guide on Gardening Indoors

January 24th, 2024

The following piece is written by ClimateActionWR volunteer and university student, Aleena Delangen. We know that taking climate action can look different to each person based on what’s accessible to them. Thinking about gardening your own food to reduce your carbon footprint but don’t have access to an outdoor garden? Don’t worry, the following blog will guide you through a potential solution that will break it down into smaller chunks so that growing your own food indoors feels less intimating. We hope that this piece can give some inspiration as you continue to live sustainably.

Planting The Seeds of Climate Action in Your Home: A Guide on Gardening Indoors

By: Aleena Delangen

If you; like many of us, live in a smaller cozy space with little-to-no access to a yard, and feel that a community garden is a little too intimidating, then gardening indoors is for you! Whether you are a student like me with a single room, or maybe you are someone who has a little more space to spare in an apartment, townhouse, or even house- gardening indoors is a fun, sustainable, and extremely rewarding project. 

The grocery store is a convenient way to quickly get all the goods you need, but this comes with fault. Pumping emissions from the transportation of products across continents, while altering and degrading ecosystems in order to create huge plots of land for both livestock and growing crops; the modern process for producing our food can be highly unsustainable and harmful to our environment. Choosing gardening can both save you money at the grocery store, reduce your enablement of unhealthy food production processes, while providing you with a fresh, tasty food source.

With a little effort and care, anyone can try this at home. Regardless of the limited or expansive amount of time you have for gardening in your day-to-day life, there are many ways you can choose (or avoid) certain plants to fit the time you have available. Brightening a room with greenery while keeping the air clean, gardening is a sustainable and fun way to reduce your household’s contribution to the harmful processes of industrialized agriculture1.    

1 “Industrial agriculture is the large-scale, intensive production of crops and animals, often involving chemical fertilizers on crops or the routine, harmful use of antibiotics in animals (as a way to compensate for filthy conditions, even when the animals are not sick).”

Choosing a Plant That Fits You:

There are a number of plants that generally do well growing in pots indoors. As mentioned before, it is important to consider the need for pollination when picking which plant species to grow in your garden. Below is a list of plant ideas that might work for you; with the benefits of each varying from having low carbon footprints, accessible to grow at home, or are climate resilient:

  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Green Onions
  • Jalapenos
  • Snap peas
  • Microgreens
  • Rosemary*
  • Thyme*
  • Oregano*

*TIP: The above three pair well together for watering conditions and frequently are potted in one. 

  • Basil
  • Mint2
  • Dill
  • Cilantro
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers

Jalapenos and snap peas are particularly interesting species of plants as they can “self-pollinate”. These plants have flowers (which grow into the fruit or veggie) which are “perfect flowers” containing both the male and female reproductive organs that are required for pollination. This means that these plants have flowers but do not require any extra work to spread the pollen in order to produce the food. 

2 Mint grows most effectively if you ‘nip back’ its growth. This means plucking the top leaves from the plant in order to stimulate fuller growth.

What you will Need:

  1. Seeds- Check out organizations such as Nancy’s Creations and Seeds, Seeds of Diversity, and many other seed companies in Canada.
  2. Small sprouting pots
    • Recycled-Such as egg cartons, yogurt cups (poke holes in bottom for draining), OR
    • Purchased pots
  3. Tray for drainage
  4. Dome cover/ humidity dome
  5. A light source
    • A sunny, warm spot, OR
    • A grow bulb and lamp3
  6. Spray bottle
  7. Larger pots for when growth continues

3 Recommended LED to conserve money and electricity. Purchase a bulb with natural light colours displaying broad full spectrum light.

Growing from a Seed:

When starting with seeds, it is important to consider providing a perfect environment for germination or sprouting for your plants. This means thinking about things like temperature, light exposure, moisture, and pot size. Different plant species require vastly different conditions, so be sure to look into the plants you want in your home before building a space for your indoor garden. 

Dampening your soil before putting it into the pots for sprouting is an important step in order to avoid the disturbance of newly set seeds. If you water directly on top of freshly laid seedlings this may move the seeds or push them deeper into the soil making it harder for them to first sprout out of the dirt. In the same sense, you should be using a spray bottle or bottom watering4 when watering your seedlings to avoid the issues above. Generally, seeds should be misted twice daily (or enough to keep the soil damp) until the sprouts poke through. 

Another tip for encouraging the first sprouting is using a dome lid. Dome lids help keep the seeds underneath in a humid and warm condition by creating a greenhouse effect5. which reduces the need for such frequent watering. An important factor to keep in mind here is circulation and timing. For circulation, it’s important the dome has some degree of ventilation- either built in or manually poked holes. Once the seedlings sprout from the dirt, the dome lid should be removed to ensure the seedlings have adequate access to light and flowing air in order to grow strong and avoid molding.  

4 Bottom watering is when your pots are placed into a tub of water instead of watering on top of the soil. Here the plant will absorb water through the hole in the bottom of its pot- only what the plant needs and no more. Can be left in the tub until water stops being absorbed.

Greenhouse effect: When rays of sunlight are able to go through a clear surface, then getting trapped inside unable to escape back out through the clear surface. This is what heats up cars so heavily on warm days.

Troubles and Care:

Watering and Moisture:

Excess water can put your plants at risk. Having too much moisture that is unable to be used by plant enables the risk of root rot6, molding, and even pests which nest in moist soil like gnats. 

Each plant type will require different amounts of water, but there are a few general rules that will help you avoid overwatering and sitting water. Starting simple- plants are best in pots that fit them. It is important to choose a pot that fits just a centimetre or two wider than the previous pot. This ensures you are providing your plant with enough growing room while avoiding extra soil space where the roots will not be able to reach the water. Bottom watering will also help avoid excess moisture as the plant will only absorb the hydration it needs and will not leave the top of the soil wet. 

As mentioned before, each plant type needs different amounts of water. Getting to know your chosen plant type and watering only when the plant needs is a difficult task, but key in perfecting your garden’s growth. 

Light Fixtures:

If you decide that using a grow light is best for you and your garden, there are a couple things to keep in mind to find the best-fit for you. Generally it is recommended to use a bulb with natural colour that is broad/full spectrum light. It is also helpful to look for a LED bulb in order to reduce excess electricity use along with the cost of the electricity bill. Knowing that your plants are going to grow taller, it is important to consider the need for a vertically adjustable lamp to ensure that your plants are getting the best light exposure for them. When setting up the lamp, it is generally best to keep the light 2-3 inches away from the plant itself. Again, every plant is different, so learn more about your plants in order to provide them with the best conditions for growing. Staying on top of adjusting the height of your lamp is important to avoid sun-burning your plant when the leaves grow too close. Plants typically need 12-14 hours of light exposure, so be sure to either turn off your light or have it on a set timing cycle.

Some Options for Lighting:

  • Small single-plant lamp
  • Various angles clip on lamp
  • Double set of rectangular lights
  • Large hanging lamp


When choosing which plants you want to grow, it’s important to remember that many flowering plants require pollination in order to produce the fruit or veggie. Especially when gardening indoors, you want to choose the plant species that fit your day-to-day life best. Manual pollination7 is possible and not extremely difficult, but definitely cuts out an extra chunk of work for the gardener. 


If you do have access to a yard, and plan to replant your indoor garden in the warmer weather, it’s important to be conscious of the influence of your plants on the surrounding environment. Many plants are invasive and are hard to control if planted freely in a garden bed. For example, the mint plant is invasive to Ontario’s ecosystem and grows at extremely rapid paces which enables it to easily overtake your garden. Due to this, it should be kept in a pot all year round. Be sure to look into the plants you have and how they do or don’t fit into our ecosystem before replanting into a garden.

6 Root rot: When the roots of a plant sit in moist soil and extra water too long and result in the rotting of roots. Appears as soggy roots and can harm the plant drastically if not managed in a timely manner.

7 Manual pollination: Can be done by shaking the plant, or by using a brush to mix the pollen into the other flowers. Different methods are required for different plants to produce the best results. For tomatoes, shaking the plant will likely work. Though for cucumbers and zucchini, you might find the best results with using a brush and transplanting the pollen to each flower. The use of a fan might also be beneficial to continuously shake the plants to promote pollination.

Re-using in the Garden: 

As discussed earlier, there are various ways a gardener can re-use items like recycled yogurt cups and repurpose them. When growing plants we can do the same sort of thing to create separate new and smaller plants. 

  1. The first method to produce new plants is collecting the seeds from your mature plant to regrow. Many plants produce accessible seeds if you allow the plant to grow to maturity like snap peas, jalapenos, tomatoes, etc. Other plants mentioned like broccoli and kale are known to cross-pollinate with similar species and may produce a hybrid of the two plants. In situations like this, it might be better to avoid this issue by re-purchasing the seeds when re-growing. 
  2. The next method is propagation. This means cutting an offshoot from a plant to then place it in water where it sits in a sunny space to produce roots. From here the cutting can be planted in its own pot and will grow to full size. This method can be used for several of the plants listed including rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, dill etc.


Overall gardening is a really fun, engaging, and fulfilling project to practice at home. Try new versions of familiar plants, experiment, and share with your friends! Although intimidating at first, gardening really just takes patience and interest. Take advantage of the endless amount of information online for tips, tricks, and suggestions. If you want the best results, I suggest thoroughly learning about the needs of each plant you choose.

 Happy Gardening!

Additional References

Grow Microgreens!. Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds. (2023)

Grundberg, E. (n.d.). Saving Pepper Seeds. Power Point.

How to Use a Humidity Dome for Seed Starting. Bootstrap Farmer. (2023, February 26).

Vinje, E. (2018, October 11). Doin’ the Pollinate Shake! Planet Natural Research Center.

Navigating the ‘Not-So-Difficult’ Climate Conversation

November 20th, 2023

The following is a piece written through the perspective of ClimateActionWR volunteer and graduating university student, Connor Vago. We know that it feels intimating to talk to your peers about climate change, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Using different tools as ways to integrate talking about climate everyday to normalize it, helps it becomes easier to discuss. We hope that this piece can give some inspiration as you continue to live sustainably.

You may think that talking about climate change is not the easiest task. In fact, you may unknowingly avoid charged topics such as climate change. But I do not want anyone to feel like that is the case. There is so much power in your voice, so much power in your conversations. More than 7’000 languages are spoken globally, compiling billions of different voices, unique to each speaker and listener alike. Not all conversations are simple. Because of this, you may view climate change as a difficult topic. Just because it appears difficult does not mean it has to be avoided. Let’s discuss some techniques for making the climate conversation a ‘not-so-difficult’ one. 

It’s important to remember, and more important to believe, that your voice is your superpower. You probably won’t stop climate change all on your own, but you can directly influence the world around you by speaking to it. Learning to navigate the climate conversation starts with normalizing the topic in your day-to-day life. Normalizing climate conversations in your immediate circle (friends and family) and practicing having them, is a great way to inspire, support and discover new avenues for change. 

A group of people talking

Description automatically generated

Photo credit; University of California having better conversations

Daryl Chen writes that most groups (families, teams, etc.) have one: an uncomfortable, charged, or complicated conversation that needs to happen but does not. Increasingly, the most complicated and charged conversations are involving something along the topic line of “what do we do about climate change?”. Climate change may not be the first and last thing you think about every day, but it is important to normalize its discussion. It is also important to note that you do not need to be an expert to engage meaningfully in good conversation. Good conversation is not just about the exchange of information and it should not be mistaken as a debate which you can win or lose. 

Conversations can allow for connection, intimacy, and emotion. As humans, we are blessed with the ability to feel strongly and feel freely. We are also blessed with the unique ability to express these feelings in a multitude of ways, including but not limited to expression through our words. Climate change is one of those topics that can bring up a variety of emotions. As its effects become more obvious, we should make sure to actively create safe spaces for people to express their feelings and thoughts. Not only will this help people process the realities of a changing climate, but it may in turn provide you with new and more accessible avenues for talking about it. Introducing, or making room for emotion, will take some of the weight off of the technical aspects of the climate conversation. 

A person with a butterfly and a turtle around her

Description automatically generated

Climate justice starts with the individual. 
Photo credit; ClimateFast

It’s the everyday conversations about climate change, those within your sphere of influence (being groups; friends, family, and colleagues) that allow you to practice conversations. Private Actions that are made up of individual efforts geared toward spreading information and acknowledging emotion inspire some of the most meaningful change. Simply talking about the issue, can and will make a difference. Talk Climate To Me, which received a Clean50 Top Project award for 2023, is a great resource to help you better approach climate conversations.

Another great resource, The Talking Climate Handbook, provides practical advice for navigating your climate conversations. The handbook follows the principles of REAL TALK which highlight suggestions or action items for better participation in good conversation. 

REAL TALK acronym. Photo credit; Climate Outreach Talking Climate Handbook – how to have a 
climate change conversation

One of these principles that has worked for me is listening to and showing those you are engaged with that they have been heard. Remember when I mentioned conversation is more than the simple exchange of information? Well, good conversations are a two-way street. REAL TALK requires Real listening and a genuine desire to hear and understand what the person you are engaging with thinks and feels. This is a thoughtful engagement. This will ensure you are speaking with someone and not at them. This will help reduce how difficult your conversations feel. And this will help you create a safe and approachable environment.

There is no script for how to perfectly approach these conversations, and it was not my hope that I could create one for you. But it is my hope to help anyone who thinks they cannot engage with this topic to believe that they can. You can do anything you set your mind to, that’s the beauty of having a voice. If no one ever spoke up, then nothing would ever change. 

Simply allowing the conversations to flow freely takes some of the difficulty away from the topic. Normalizing those conversations in turn makes it seem less intimidating and foreign. Again, there is no ‘one right way’. To inspire public action, we must first practice private ones. Conversation is one of the powerful actions you can engage in, the beauty of conversations is that the stakes are so low. A private action isn’t just a drop in the bucket if it creates ripples, and even the smallest drops have this power. Your voice and ability to speak up, both directly and indirectly, have the power to create these ripples. Afterall, you never know how far they might reach. 

A close-up of a water drop

Description automatically generated

Ripples in a pond, an expression of action and effect. 
Photo credit; ScienceABC

Unplugging Connection; First Steps in Taking the Pledge

August 2nd, 2023

The following is a piece written through the perspective of ClimateActionWR volunteer and graduating university student, Connor Vago. We know that it feels like bad climate news is constant, and it is easy to feel eco-anxiety. It can be helpful to slow down and reflect on how climate action and wellness interconnect. We hope that this piece can give some inspiration as you continue to live sustainably.

Much of the work done at ClimateActionWR is tailored towards the promotion of individual and community action for sustainable and low carbon lifestyles. A helpful starting point when first beginning this journey is asking the question of “why”.  Why do I want to make a lifestyle change, and where does my motivation for climate action come from? There are many reasons for climate consciousness, this short piece will be tailored to those seeking to better understand the ways they can personally connect to the environments around them. How might acknowledging your connections influence the ways you live your life? Whatever it may be, however small or large, I’d like you to keep them in mind when reading the remainder of this piece. 

Connectivity with the environments around us is becoming increasingly important, not only for environmental sustainability but for human sustainability as well. The call to action to ‘make the pledge’ (Climate Action’s 90 day pledge for sustainable behavior changes) can be thought of not only in terms of promoting emissions reduction but also as promoting healthy living. The pledge, in its simplest form, promotes healthy living through carbon reduction strategies such as active transportation alternatives which can include walking and cycling. 

Given the changing nature of modern work and social interaction the necessity for online connectivity is growing which promotes an increasingly sedentary (inactive) lifestyle. As of 2022 Stats Canada measured an average total sedentary time for Canadian adults at 9.8 hours per day and only about 27% of adults met the recommended average for a healthy lifestyle. Further, the changing nature of interaction requires an increase in daily time plugged-in; considering the COVID-19 pandemic and the carry-over of work from home measures, screen time and individual energy consumption patterns are also on the rise. In addition to the previous statistic it was further found that 3.2 of these sedentary hours were spent in front of a screen. As a student and young professional the average screen time of 3.2 hours a day, in my opinion, seems quite low. Whether you agree with my conclusion, it seems many Canadians are adopting an over-connected, over plugged-in and ultimately sedentary lifestyle. Overly “plugged-in” lifestyles promote increased individual energy consumption and are increasingly damaging to physical/mental wellbeing. Increased screen time (time plugged-in) can lead to feelings of social-isolation, guilt and overcompensation in working aged adults. 

Nature is good for us; it has the power to provide both long- and short-term mental and physical health benefits. Nature is not just wilderness, but it is backyards, patios, parks and green spaces. I challenge you to take the time to consider in what ways unplugging may help you reconnect with the people and spaces around you. In turn, you may find that a pledge to ‘return to nature’ may affect your personal wellbeing. It’s not simply in the name of environmental sustainability, but also as previously mentioned, in the name of personal sustainability and personal wellbeing. 

Reducing energy consumption is beneficial for both the individual and the environment. Un-plug in any way you see fit, but I urge you to try and unplug. Find ways to reduce your personal consumption at home or work, turn your appliances off, take breaks and go outside and maybe start that garden you’ve been dreaming of. Action is a funny thing, and our call to action is one directed at reducing carbon footprints. Unplugging can be a good first step in taking climate action, one that can be explored in many different and accessible ways. Other ways you can practice “unplugging” might be by asking yourself if you need to run your AC when the windows are open or when you’re out of town. Or as previously mentioned, through active transportation; ask the question “do i need to drive my car to destination ‘X’”. Physical activity of any sort can be extremely influential on both climate action and your wellbeing at the same time. 

In the end, “unplugging” is not just about changing your consumption patterns but also changing the ways we connect. I hope you can find your way of promoting climate action through promoting your individual wellbeing. How will you participate in preserving that which is “unplugged”?

5 Ways to Make Your Office More Sustainable by SWR

July 10th, 2023

To learn more about Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR) and how to make your office more sustainable, check out the Impact Network program here!

1. Equipment

“You can reduce your computer monitors’ energy consumption by as much as 70% by turning on their power management settings!”

When employees are away from their computers for extended periods of time, it wastes energy if the monitor is left on. The most efficient way to avoid this cost is by turning your monitor off before leaving your desks. To avoid paying for extra electricity if this step is forgotten, it would be wise to activate your monitor’s power management settings, which will cause the monitor to enter ‘sleep mode’ after a short period of inactivity.

2. Building design & operations

“Save on energy bills and reduce your heat loss up-to 10% with weather-stripping!”

In the process of weather stripping windows, a latex caulking is applied around the edges of the window, creating an airtight seal. This will decrease the flow of outside air into the office space and help maintain consistent heating or cooling within the office. Window stripping products can be purchased at a local hardware store and can be easily applied.

3. Travel

“Create and utilize a standardized method/ tool for commuting and business travel reporting.”

Using a weekly survey, a spreadsheet template, or app to record personal or employee business travel will lead to greater accuracy in reported GHG emissions. Also, with better tracking of travel distances and methods over time, interventions for alternative travel methods can be evaluated for efficacy.

4. Water

“Install low-flow faucet aerators and reduce the flow of water by 30% or more, without compromising the effectiveness of the water stream.”

Aerators are small screens that introduce air into the water stream by splitting it into many small streams. Aerators improve the consistency of the water flow while also reducing water consumption. While modern fixtures have this feature, for older fixtures, it should be possible to unscrew the tip of your faucet – the aerator is the mesh cap at the end of your fixture – and use this to help purchase a suitable replacement.

5. Waste

“Recycled paper content preserves forests, reduces solid waste, and can reduce your upstream paper-related greenhouse gas emissions by almost 50%.”

Look for copier paper, envelopes, packaging supplies and publication-grade papers with recycled content, which can range anywhere from 10% to 100% recycled paper content. Products containing recycled content will usually display the Mobius loop (recycling) symbol.

Knowing Your Boundaries: How and When to Engage with Climate Change

April 24th, 2023

In June 2021, the ClimateActionWR collaborative announced the TransformWR strategy, our long-term and short-term strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Waterloo Region by 80% below 2010 levels by 2050 with an interim goal of a 30% reduction by 2030. ClimateActionWR is working with all eight Waterloo Region municipalities to enact our equitable, collaborative, and comprehensive strategies to achieve our 80% by ’50 and 30% by ‘30 reductions, in accordance with the Paris Agreement and Canada’s pledge to reach net-zero by 2050. You can find the details of the TransformWR strategy here.


In our age of the 24-hour news cycle, complemented by the never-ending roar of a whole slew of different social media platforms, it is nearly impossible to run out of climate change news, essays, posts, rants, and opinions. Which is not to say all of the news about climate is bad. On any given day, you can watch new videos or read about extraordinary ongoing pushes for climate justice on local, regional, national, and international levels and different victories for climate action. 

This is because, thankfully, there is an enormous amount happening around climate change at any given moment. From news and reactions to major climate victories in the form of new legislation or climate action; to the dire news of climate catastrophes and disasters affecting the most vulnerable. All the different news around our changing climate can be a lot to take in. It can certainly be overwhelming at times, and one very important thing to keep in mind is that unplugging or taking a break from climate news can be critical to pacing yourself and managing your own wellbeing in the face of climate change. And yes, you may be thinking, ‘kind of ironic that you’re saying this in a climate change blog full of hyperlinks to other content, isn’t it?’ Well, quite. But hopefully after reading this, you’ll still a) want to engage with climate change, but b) know when you need to take a break. What we’d really like to talk to you about is finding your healthiest balance. 


There are many problems that stem from climate change, but one key problem to keep in mind is that climate change and its impacts are long-term. While the worst-case scenarios are now judged to be highly unlikely to ever come to pass, climate change will be measured on a spectrum of decades rather than days or years. This is not meant to be discouraging, but to illustrate that engaging with climate change means pacing yourself. It’s a cliche at this point to say, ‘climate change is a marathon, not a sprint’ but the reason that’s a cliche is that it makes a good point. Pacing is key. Plenty of marathon marathon runners walk during marathons to help manage their energy and prevent injury. Engaging with climate change is similar. Sometimes, you need to slow down or disengage. 

You may have heard of ‘doomscrolling’ during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the phenomena of falling down dark and depressing rabbit-holes of social media posts and news articles about an ongoing crisis. Well, it is also possible to doomscroll through climate news, especially during episodes of extreme weather events. Many of us have probably given into doomscrolling on occasion and have ended up spending a morning or an evening diving into dire situations all over the world. While doomscrolling can provide some grim comfort of being up-to-date and aware of ongoing crises, it isn’t especially helpful for mental health or managing anxiety. A better idea might be to try and moderate your intake of climate news, good or bad, so that the struggles around our climate don’t consume you. 


While the majority of climate change news explores the impacts and risks of climate change, it is also important to take stock of the progress, growing awareness, and climate action occurring at various levels all over the world. There are lots of organizations that release regular newsletters about climate action (you can start with ours! The sign up box is at the bottom of this page) that note their progress, goals, victories, and plans moving forward. These sorts of newsletters can be helpful and can counterbalance the firehose of dire climate news you can get from news outlets and online sources. And again, we’re not just saying that because we have a very cool newsletter. If you want to look, you can seek out the progress and action from climate-minded organizations for a dose of hope and inspiration from anywhere in the world. 

Having said that, when bad news comes, which it sometimes will, how you engage with it is important for maintaining a balance between keeping informed and maintaining mental health. When a climate disaster strikes, or when climate action is faced with setbacks, things can feel dire. A thing to keep in mind with bad news is that major disasters and setbacks make for excellent headlines. Catastrophes tend to be large, grim, and to make future struggles all the harder. Disasters can be compelling and riveting, but they are rarely insurmountable. The efforts to overcome a calamity, the resilience offered by everyday people in pushing through, and the teamwork on a local or international level to provide assistance may not be seen as newsworthy and given the same coverage as the initial disaster. So however bad a week the world has with climate change, and even if you need to take a break from the coverage, the fact that climate disasters and climate change can be a front-page or trending event is critical for further engagement and action on climate change. But if that news and the conversation around it gets too heavy…


One of the most important elements of engaging with climate news is a simple one: take breaks from the news when it starts to feel overwhelming. However, you engage with climate change, whether it is traditional news sources, Reddit, social media, documentaries on climate change, take breaks now and then.


You know what, why not take the rest of the day off of reading or watching videos about climate change? You may be thinking, ‘wow, this is another incredibly ironic suggestion coming from a climate action group’ but we mean it. The rest of the climate movement can handle things while you recharge. Because climate change is going to be a part of our lives for decades to come. Like we said earlier, a marathon, not a sprint. But climate change is certainly a race we can succeed at, with each plan to reach net-zero, each commitment to reduced emissions, we make a little more progress in the race and push the needle towards a safer and more sustainable future. So take a break from the race for a bit, and we’ll chat again once you’ve recharged!

The Emotions of Climate Change

November 8th, 2022

In June 2021, the ClimateActionWR collaborative announced the TransformWR strategy, our long-term and short-term strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Waterloo Region by 80% below 2010 levels by 2050 with an interim goal of a 30% reduction by 2030. ClimateActionWR is working with all eight Waterloo Region municipalities to enact our equitable, collaborative, and comprehensive strategies to achieve our 80% by ’50 and 30% by ‘30 reductions, in accordance with the Paris Agreement and Canada’s pledge to reach net-zero by 2050. You can find the details of the TransformWR strategy here.


Climate change can be a frightening, unsettling, and upsetting topic to discuss. Which is not to say there aren’t reasons for hope, there are, and we’ll explore the reasons for hope and optimism throughout this article. While there is reason for optimism and we are seeing a lot of progress on climate action, some of the facts on what is changing and can be expected to change can be distressing. Some predictions are dire, although the worst-case climate scenarios are considered unlikely at this point. It is possible to feel hopeless considering how much needs to change and the sheer scope of what needs to be accomplished to prevent dangerous levels of warming and climate shifts. An enormous amount has been written about the dangers of climate change, what we must do to prevent the worst, and what is at stake. However, not enough has been said about how climate change makes people feel, how to cope with feelings around climate change, and what to do in difficult  moments when facing the problem that is climate change. 

But we would love to talk to you about the emotions that surround climate change. Maybe this type of discussion can help people know that being anxious, pessimistic, guilty, or hopeful about our changing climate is totally natural; and what you can do if you feel stuck.


Climate change anxiety is on the rise. Especially for people between the ages of 16 and 25. Which is completely understandable. Climate change is often talked about in what the world will be like in 2050 or 2100, which younger people today can expect to see for themselves. This can make these projections more anxiety-inducing. Plus, climate change is a bigger problem than any one person, or any one nation, can solve. The scope and extent of the problem can cause a feeling of powerlessness, which can lead to a sense of hopelessness or anxiety. This is also completely normal. But there are ways to manage climate anxiety to feel less stressed about climate change and to turn anxiety into a cause for action.

Suggestions to manage anxiety, such as meditation and relaxation, are a great option. But other recommendations, like communication, spending time in nature, and some level of climate change activism or involvement, can also be a huge help. Talking about your climate anxieties with friends and family can be hugely helpful to connect and share perspectives. As noted earlier, climate change is a global problem and not something anyone should feel they need to manage alone. Visiting nature, such as Provincial Parks or a hiking trail can also be a soothing way to connect with nature and enjoy the reserves and natural areas we do have. Time in nature can also be reaffirming, to remember what you’re hoping to preserve and to see the marvels of our planet for yourself. And finally, getting involved in climate change activism or awareness campaigns, whether volunteering in person, on social media, or online, can be a way to connect with people who are looking for change and have incredible ideas about how to improve our ideas and methods for dealing with climate change. While none of these are a perfect cure for climate change anxiety, they can offer help if you’re struggling and need direction in how to engage with a changing climate.


Blame and guilt are two especially uncomfortable discussions to have in regards to climate change. Plus, blame is a very complicated thing to assign in climate change. Rich countries are responsible for most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and there is a growing sense that rich nations have a climate debt to pay to the world in how they mitigate climate change and fund adaptation for more climate-vulnerable countries. But the blame for climate change can be more complex when looking for culpable individuals or organizations. Blame has been cast on political leaders, fossil fuel companies, and on the individual, for the world’s growing emissions over the last century. But blame isn’t necessarily helpful, and can detract from moving forward on climate action and efforts to promote climate equity. Shifting discussions away from blame can lead to more constructive discussions to promote helping and healing in the community, which can do far more good overall.

Guilt, meanwhile, is strongly associated with blame, and if you feel guilty about the emissions from your own lifestyle, from transportation, the energy you use, or the objects you use in everyday life, it’s important to know that a lot of work has gone into shifting the guilt of climate change from fossil-fuel intensive organizations to the individual. For example, maybe you’ve heard of the ‘carbon footprint calculator?’ It is a digital quiz that lets you see the extent of greenhouse gasses you are personally responsible for. Maybe you have even tried to calculate your carbon footprint. If you have, please know that it is a somewhat misleading means of understanding your responsibility for climate change.

You see, greenhouse gas emissions are released when fossil fuels are burned, but it is a long process involving a lot of companies, regulations, and societal norms to get fossil fuels into a driver’s gas tank or a homeowner’s furnace from their original location. Fossil fuels have to be extracted from the ground, refined, transported to where they will be used, and then used as fuel. The emissions for fossil fuels tend to be counted at the tailpipe where they are burned, as opposed to the wellhead where they are pulled out of the ground. This wellhead vs tailpipe discussion has been going on for years and it illustrates a key point about climate change guilt and hope: that the causes of climate change are layered and complex, and that fossil fuel usage is (unfortunately) built into how our society is powered right now.

Climate change can make it seem like the burden is on the individual while the solutions depend on the world, but the whole story of climate change is much more complicated than that. Assigning blame and guilt, while cathartic, doesn’t always account for the very long history of our relationship with Earth’s climate, and it might be more helpful to focus on positive emotions around climate change, like the conviction and hope that things can improve and we can aim for better. 


There are reasons to be hopeful about how humanity can respond to climate change.  A brilliant recent video by Kurzgesagt explains the reasons to be hopeful for preventing the worst of climate change quite well, noting that while we have a long way to go, there has been an enormous amount of progress in understanding and responding to climate change. Basically, over the past five years, there has been an enormous shift in how people view and talk about climate change. Different levels of government across Canada are making plans for steep emissions cuts by 2030 (including the Waterloo Region!) and Canada has a legally-binding target of  net-zero emissions by 2050. These new plans are in line with what scientists say we need to do in order to limit warming to dangerous levels.

While news about the world’s climate can certainly be dire, there are lots of reasons for hope and optimism when looking back at how climate change has grown as an issue and how conversations and action around climate change have evolved since the collapsed Kyoto Protocol in the 1990s. While there is a long way to go, the progress in climate change being recognized and addressed as an urgent issue is encouraging. If nothing else, keep in mind that there is an ongoing global effort to prevent climate change from worsening, with experts in the Waterloo Region writing parts of and negotiating the international efforts to report on climate change. Local organizations, including all townships in the Waterloo Region, from Kitchener, Cambridge, and Waterloo to Wellesley, Wilmot, Woolwich, and North Dumfries, are taking individual and collective steps to address climate change and build resilience in their communities.


If climate change has you frightened or anxious, the team at ClimateActionWR has found some resources through the Mental Health and Climate Change Alliance (MHCCA). They offer lists of climate-aware counselors, climate wellbeing kits, and a variety of projects and resources to connect with people and share stories regarding climate anxiety. You can also check out the Good Grief Network that offers a program of ten week virtual sessions aimed at harnessing your overwhelming and painful feelings into positive action in your community. Always know that there are options out there for processing and talking about climate change, and most importantly, that you’re never alone in dealing with climate change.

Community Check-in: For our friends new and old, allow us to re-introduce ourselves!

November 3rd, 2022

The past year or so has been busy for ClimateActionWR and we just wanted to take a moment to re-introduce ourselves for those who may be unfamiliar and to provide a space for those who have been following along for some time to share what climate action projects they have been up to.

Sun Life Waterloo Busker Carnival

We are ClimateActionWR, a collaboration between local organizations, community members, and municipalities focused on climate change mitigation in Waterloo Region, co-led by Reep Green Solutions (Reep) and Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR). We coordinate the activities of our community’s climate action strategy, TransformWR, measure and monitor progress on emissions reductions, and engage the community in climate action initiatives. Our community is working together to achieve Waterloo Region’s long-term goal of an 80% greenhouse gas emission reduction (based on 2010 levels) by 2050 (80by50). The TransformWR strategy outlines our community’s pathway to 80by50, and identifies local actions that can be taken in Waterloo Region to reduce emissions 30% by 2030. 

In June 2021, all eight area municipalities in Waterloo Region endorsed TransformWR: Waterloo Region’s Transition to an Equitable, Prosperous, Resilient, Low Carbon Community. With a strong climate action plan, our councils unanimously adopted an additional ambitious and science-backed short-term community goal to achieve a 50% greenhouse gas reduction by 2030. The TransformWR strategy was developed through the ClimateActionWR collaborative, with joint funding from the local municipalities and from the Federation of  Canadian Municipalities under a T2050 grant. Led by ClimateActionWR staff, the project team included representatives from Reep, SWR, the cities, the townships, and the Region. ClimateActionWR via Unless Design Partners connected with over 1,600 community members to discuss what they wanted the future of Waterloo Region to look like, and their insights on how we can get there by transitioning to a low carbon community. This directly informed our vision of 2050, and the principles for designing a low carbon future, which were key inputs into the development of the technical pathway, led by energy consultants from WalterFedy. To inform this process, technical consultation included workshops, surveys, and conversations with over 100 technical experts, locally, nationally, and internationally, including municipal leadership and staff.  

This past year the ClimateActionWR collaborative has been fortunate to be included as one of 19 communities across Canada participating in Tamarack Institute’s Climate Transition Cohort, which will conclude late 2022. This training has developed the collaborative’s understanding of using an equity lens when implementing climate action strategies, all while leveraging the values of a collective impact model and collaborative leadership to create system changes and movement building in our communities. This has provided the ClimateActionWR collaborative an opportunity to connect and network with other municipalities and organizations across Canada to exchange ideas and best practices. Through this experience our team has learned many tools and ideas on how to create movement building in our community that maximizes all our strengths, levers and appropriately uses an equity lens in decisions making and strategic directions moving forward. 

Based on our history, ClimateActionWR is not new to collective work and has a foundation of collaboration. We are currently building on our foundation of collective work and using our learnings from the cohort to evolve to become more robust and inclusive as our region works toward implementing the TransformWR Strategy. It is only by integrating equity into all of our actions and decisions that we can transform into a low carbon community that enriches all of its members. We look forward to bringing more organizations and community members into our work as a collective and having more voices represented in our local climate movement. 

This past year we have been busy in the community chatting with many of you at local events to let everyone know that the strategy is ready and accessible in its entirety on our website. We have been focusing this past year on spreading the message that we are building a better future for our community through climate action, and that every individual, municipality, organization and business has a role to play! Going forward we are working towards building awareness in the community, so that everyone knows and takes ownership of their role in taking on climate action and implementing the TransformWR strategy. Stay tuned to our social media (@climateactionwr) and events calendar for upcoming ClimateActionWR events and campaigns heading into 2023!

City of Waterloo Day of Play
KW Multicultural Festival

We want to hear from you!

The TransformWR strategy is our entire community’s climate action plan and requires an all hands on deck approach. We’d love to hear about all the great work that is already underway in our community! If your business, or organization has a story to share about how you’re implementing the TransformWR strategy and building a better Waterloo Region through climate action, then email us at so we can spotlight your tremendous work and all celebrate together!

ClimateActionWR’s Nine Questions for This Municipal Election

October 6th, 2022

The 2022 municipal election is quickly approaching! Verify your eligibility to vote, check advance polling dates/locations and election day information on the Region of Waterloo Elections website.

All eight municipalities in Waterloo Region endorsed the TransformWR strategy, making it the official climate action plan for these governments. If we hope to meet the target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, it is crucial that incoming candidates act on the recommendations of the plan. 

Here are nine questions that you can ask candidates at the door or at local debates:

1. How will you ensure that the TransformWR strategy remains a priority of the incoming council and builds momentum throughout the community?

All eight municipal councils endorsed the strategy along with a target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050, and an interim target of a 50% reduction by 2030. These bold commitments are going to take immediate action by the incoming council.

2. How will you advocate to the provincial and federal governments in support of our long-term community climate action plan? 

When they approved the interim target of a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030, municipalities recognized that it is going to take support from the federal and provincial governments. This kind of multi-government collaboration takes time and clear vision.

3. How will you support the protection of agricultural land and our local agricultural systems?

Waterloo Region is an agricultural leader. Building and maintaining close relationships between our local municipalities and organizations within our local agricultural communities is critical to ensuring we meet and exceed best practices to protect our agricultural land.

4. What will you do to make home energy efficiency upgrades accessible and affordable for all?

Energy poverty (defined as paying twice the national average proportion of income for home energy) affects 1 in 5 households in Waterloo Region.

5. How will you support using active transportation for trips currently taken by car?

Our region needs to shift away from cars in order to meet the goals agreed to by council. By 2050, vehicle trips under 5km need to be reduced by 80% using active transportation. This shift needs to start now.

6. What steps will you take to make sure our (Region/City/School board) wastes less and no longer disposes of organics in the landfill?

Waste reduction is a major part of the TransformWR strategy, with one of the six transformative changes being “Waterloo Region uses less, wastes less, and no longer disposes of organic matter in landfills.” To make this happen, municipal governments need to work with the province and come up with creative solutions to real challenges like the lack of organic waste pick-up in multi-residential buildings.

7. How will you support local electricity generation from carbon neutral, renewable sources?

The TransformWR strategy calls for 38% of electricity used locally to be produced from local, carbon neutral, renewable sources. In order to realize this by 2050, we need to start now.

8. TransformWR promises that in the next three years, fuel oil and propane will be eliminated as heating sources for buildings. What steps will you take to make sure that happens?

This shift is one of the most immediate time-sensitive goals of the strategy. Fuel oil and propane heating are inefficient and unsustainable but switching can often be costly. Our municipalities need to work with residents to help them transition off these fuels affordably.

9. What steps will you take to support the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sector’s transition to more energy efficient operations?

The second largest sector for emissions in our community comes from workplaces. This is the emissions from energy use in industrial, commercial and institutional buildings. This is a crucial sector to support in order to meet our long-term targets. 

Here’s Why Waterloo Region’s Low Carbon Future Needs Your Vote in the June 2nd Provincial Elections

May 31st, 2022

It’s now days until the election. Before voting, we thought you’d like to know how the Ontario Provincial government affects local climate action. Our local Waterloo Region climate change mitigation goals under the TransformWR strategy include addressing emissions from agriculture, residential, transportation, workplaces, and waste. Local actors must work hard to meet our short- and long-term goals. But given its jurisdiction over all TransformWR focus sectors, the Province has a clear responsibility in achieving our long-term goals too. To reach our goals, the Provincial government must implement supportive policies and programs now if we are to meet our 2030 and 2050 targets respectively. Who you vote for on June 2nd matters for Waterloo Region’s low carbon future. So, know this before you vote:

Provincial Impact on TransformWR Calls to Action & Transformative Changes

the Ways
We Move
Most trips are taken
using active
transportation, with
the support of a
robust public transit

Supporting active transportation.
The Provincial government has the authority to establish guidelines for “complete streets” and make a commitment to creating communities that are bikeable and walkable.

Public transit system growth.
The government is an important partner in the expansion of infrastructure and provides some of the funding for the transportation system in the Waterloo Region.

Highway development.
The government is in charge of making decisions pertaining to highways, such as the Conestoga Parkway and Highway 7 to Guelph.

the Ways
We Move
Remaining personal and commercial vehicles are
zero emissions vehicles

Accelerating electric vehicle adoption.
In the past, the Provincial government has offered financial incentives for the purchase of electric cars and is in charge of regulating usage and resale market conditions.

Electrification of commercial vehicle fleets.
The Province is responsible for establishing emissions and safety regulations for commercial vehicles, and it has the potential to play a significant role in the electrification of fleets.

Deploying EV charging infrastructure.
Public charging stations are installed along highways and in rural regions with funding from the Provincial government.

Transform The Ways We Build & Operate
Our Spaces
Businesses and homes no
longer use fossil fuels for
space heating and cooling,
and water heating.

Individual building energy efficiency.
The province sets codes and regulations for new and existing buildings. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is responsible for administering the Ontario Building Code, which regulates minimum efficiency requirements and processes for how buildings are built and retrofitted in the Province.

Land use development and redevelopment.
Through the Planning Act, the Province regulates the development and use of land in Ontario, including processes and tools for planning and controlling development or redevelopment, as well as providing the legal foundation for local official plans and zoning-by laws.

The Energy system.
The Ontario Energy Ministry sets energy policy. Ontario’s energy policy covers generation, transmission, and facilities, including renewable energy sources. This is accomplished through legislation and regulation. The Ministry oversees pricing regulatory frameworks. Policies that promote energy conservation, clean technology, and innovation would also fall under the purview of the Province.

Transform the Ways
We Relate
Waterloo Region has
leveraged reducing GHG
emissions to increase
equity, prosperity, and
resiliency for all.

Making housing and workplaces healthier, accessible, and affordable is already within the Province’s power.
The Province oversees energy conservation and energy poverty reduction incentive programs (Ministry of Energy), affordable and social housing policies, tenant affordability controls, landlord energy conservation incentives, and building codes that require construction practices to enhance the health of the indoor environment (Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing).

Creating policies and programs that increase the representation of equity seeking groups in the green workforce is part of the Province’s jurisdiction.
Building local capacity to drive forward climate action will necessitate an increasingly robust workforce, with opportunities for equity seeking groups at its core to support local economic development. The province can exert influence in this area through regulatory bodies such as the Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development and the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade through strategic policies and programs.

The Province can align key social, environmental, economic, land use, and energy policies and programs to allow groups and individuals to undertake equitable community-level climate action.
Jurisdiction includes but is not limited to ramping up local renewable generation (Ministry of Energy), providing appropriate tools, resources, and market signals to local governments and economies (Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade), and contributing to healthier communities and economic prosperity by protecting Ontario’s air, land, and water from climate impacts with strong policies and programs (Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks). 

Transform the Ways
We Produce, Consume
and Waste
Waterloo Region uses less, wastes less, and
no longer disposes of
organic matter in

Guide transition to a circular economy.
The government of the Province has the authority to enact legislation for the use of recovered materials, which will contribute to the expansion of the circular economy.

Waste management facilities and practices. 
Landfills are subject to regulation by the Provincial government, which includes the authorization of new landfills and the regulation of waste management procedures.

Diverting organic waste from landfills.
The Province has the authority to prohibit the disposal of organic waste in landfills and to impose stringent rules on the commercial, industrial, and institutional sectors regarding organic waste.

Transform the Ways
We Produce, Consume

and Waste
Waterloo Region has a
thriving local food system built on local farming, and food production and processing that feeds
much of our community.

Agricultural practices.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs of Ontario is in charge of regulating farming in the Province, including but not limited to practices such as organic farming and small-scale farms.

Reducing food waste.
In order to reduce the amount of food that is thrown away, the Province is able to provide financial assistance toward the process of rescuing and redistributing excess food.

Supporting local food production and consumption.
The Province is responsible for enforcing sales regulations at farm stands and has the ability to encourage the purchase of locally grown food in Ontario supermarkets.

Keep this information in mind when voting for your local low carbon future. 

And if you’re interested in hearing from Waterloo Region MPP candidates’ about their plans to balance human and environmental needs, check out these Waterloo Region election candidate interviews.

The interviews are available on Waterloo Region Elections YouTube page: Waterloo Region Election Interviews – MPP candidates’ plans to balance human and environmental needs. For the June 2nd, 2022 Ontario election, several organizations and groups in Waterloo Region invited all the candidates for individual 15 minute interviews. The candidates were asked about issues that affect everyone in our community on a daily basis – climate change, land protection, transportation, housing, aggregate extraction and environmental justice.

The group coordinating the interviews included Grand River Environmental Network, Nith Valley EcoBoosters, rare Charitable Research Reserve, Reep Green Solutions (Reep), Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR), and ClimateActionWR (a co-led program of Reep and SWR).

National Volunteer Week 2022: “A BIG thank you to our volunteers; the heart of ClimateActionWR”

April 28th, 2022

ClimateActionWR’s dedicated and passionate volunteers lend their collective power to making Waterloo Region more sustainable by supporting the implementation of Waterloo Region’s long-term community climate change mitigation strategy TransformWR

April 24th to April 30th is National Volunteer Week, and ClimateActionWR would like to acknowledge all of our 42 (forty-two) dedicated and hard working volunteers that help make the program flourish. The National Volunteer Week 2022 theme is “Volunteering is Empathy in Action: Volunteers Bring Heart to Canada’s Communities”. No one exemplifies this more than our ClimateActionWR volunteers, who continue to show that great things can be accomplished in climate action with authentic empathy and passion. Our volunteers are truly the heart and soul of our program, with a genuine interest in our entire community’s well-being and togetherness. They continue to be the force that lights the path forward on our climate mitigation journey, bringing the aim of transitioning to a more equitable, prosperous, resilient, and low-carbon community closer to reality. 

The ClimateActionWR Sector Committee volunteers include our Advisors, Co-Chairs and Members who act as catalysts and connectors for our community’s climate action strategy. We’d like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for our Residential, Transportation, and Workplace Sector Committee volunteers for their positive energy, passion and tremendous impact to our community’s climate action efforts.

ClimateActionWR also has a core staff team that is mostly made up of volunteers who help run the program. Whether it’s bringing heart and inspiration to our social media, marketing, content and resource creation, or research, our mighty team works hard to ensure the program thrives. We’d like to express our gratitude to our volunteer staff team as a valuable and essential part of our program.

Volunteers from ClimateActionWR and others across Waterloo Region bring strength and momentum to climate action that’s pushing us towards a better community and world for all. The community would not be able to accomplish everything it has without you. On behalf of ClimateActionWR, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Here are just a few of our passionate and hardworking volunteers at ClimateActionWR.

Get our Monthly Community Action Report

Stay up to date on progress towards our goal

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.