Monday, 24 August 2015

VIA: The more (in)human way to travel?

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Last year I took Via rail from Jasper to Toronto for my annual pilgrimage to my homeland and to attend a conference at the same time, the view was beautiful but the service was discriminatory and pretty awful. This year  I decided to give it another shot and was joined by my sister from Vancouver all the way to Ottawa. This nearly 5 day journey would be made even more daunting by adding the budgetary restraints of students which meant we could only afford coach seats and not cabins. For 4 nights we would have to eat, sleep and live in our chairs only venturing up and down the cars for the occasional stretch and exploration. 

The classes are divided by the seating, service and physical compartments of the train. We in coach sat at the front and had access to the cafe and viewing car by day and the dining car by reservation for hot meals. The us and them perspective of the train had me thinking about what type of people would be using this mode of transportation. In the cabins it seemed to be largely retiree’s and upper middle class families that could afford the $1000 to 10,000 cost per person for a luxury cabin that comes with a sleeping surface. 

Mount Robson, BC
At least once I planned to go to the dinning car for a nice meal. When I entered the dinning car with my sister for breakfast once morning we were immediately addressed as economy class passengers in front of the other passengers, to clearly define our status to them. We were then asked if we understood that this meal would be more expensive then the canteen in our area of the train and asked if we could afford it.  I was like "WHAAAAAAAT!" The obvious display of classism was never more apparent to me then in this moment and I wanted to leave immediately but instead forced my way through a breakfast that seemed so unappealing. I am not ashamed of my poverty, being able to afford a train ticket is a luxury in itself and should not be under valued. Our service was inferior to others and the constant glares from the other passengers made the rest of the meal really uncomfortable.

The train is supposed to be the most sustainable mode of travelling cross country with less emissions then a plane or car journey. And yet I couldn’t help but feel as if I was on a cruise ship dumping waste at every port and living extravagantly. Every meal in coach is served in a styrofoam container and there very little recycling. VIA contracted out their meal planning and catering years ago to a corporate model so poor food quality and heavily processed ingredients are a standard on board. Sure we expelled fewer emissions but the waste that was produced in the 5 days of the route we were on might surely make up for any initials carbon savings.

Somewhere in Ontario
This combined with the obnoxious and elitist service makes me questions the slogan "the more human way to travel". I secretly dreamed of becoming the VIA rail sustainability manager and leading them down a path of greener choices. A business however established must constantly be engaged in strategies to be more sustainable if they want to continue in the future as environmental compassion begins to trickle into the main stream. 

Like last year I left the train with a bitter sweet taste in my mouth and 8 hours behind schedule. I had enjoyed the view but was left with too many gaps in my mind to appreciate the journey. As a locavore I took the train instead of a flight as it was the exception we made to travel as long is it was not a personal vehicle or flight it seemed more ethical. I love taking trains, I will most likely continue using them as my transportation of preference, however I am not certain I will choose this service again.

But at least now I have made it to my destination, Toronto, Ontario which I am here to attend the National Student Food Summit with Meal Exchange for the weekend. If have places I should check out in Toronto or Ottawa let me know by Twitter @melaniejadea

XX Melanie

"But I complain about the police the way the rich complain; not the way the poor complain. The difference is everything." Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

7 Non-Local Things on my Shopping List

With only a few short weeks until my year of living locally draws to a close, I am going to be sad to leave the Locavore challenge behind. I have nearly made it through an entire year of no Starbucks, no new clothes, no flights and no rum...and I survived! I found these things don't seem to be missing from my life and have evolved past them becoming more self sufficient and conscious along the way!!! Hurrah!
There are however a few things I have been anxiously awaiting to purchase once my term is complete September 1st, here is my list thus far:
  1. New shorts
    • My long lost backpack
    • I need new shorts for biking and haven't been able to find a suitable pair used. You could add biking gear to this list as there are a few things like and air pump and winter tires I have been waiting to buy.
  2. Backpack
    • My own backpack was stolen from me this year (Letter to a thief) and I have been borrowing a friends until I can purchase a new one. That bag came with me when I lived and travelled Europe and moved me across Canada. An investment in a new bag will hopefully last me for another 10 years. 
  3.  Coconut oil
    • I managed to make it through the year while going through my giant Costco sized coconut oil tub but I am almost out and can't wait to buy more. I used this sh*t on everything, I cook with it, brush my teeth, moisturise, make my own sunscreen, makeup remover, condition my hair. I love the stuff and don't want to live without it anymore.
  4. Birkenstock's
    • Totally ordering shots!
    • Last year my pair died after 4 years of faithful service and I am really excited to buy a new pair of quality shoes that will last just as long. I will be shopping from their vegan line and investing in quality shoes that will last beyond their aesthetic qualities. 
  5. Lingerie
    • Though I have been mending my undergarments at home some of them are on their final stretches and I am counting the days until I can replace them. My underwear drawer has been added to with handmade panties but I am needing a bit more support in the upper torso region ;) 
  6. Fly
    • I want to start flying again! I managed to travel this year going to Vancouver (x2), Seattle, Victoria, Nanaimo & Terrace by ride-sharing and am taking the train to Ontario soon to visit family. A year without flying hasn't been so bad but I do have the travel bug and am itching to get on the road in the skies.
  7. Mascara
    • I want this shirt too! 
    • I finally found my one true love mascara and haven't able to buy it this whole year. I tried homemade versions, Lush cosmetics and going au naturelle but am eager to replenish my fresh face staple.

The end is in sight, and once I stock up on the non-local "essentials" I feel like I can go another year of local! (...or maybe even longer..) 

Have a lovely day,

Melanie XX

"People don't cheat by chance, they cheat by choice"- Anonymous 

Monday, 3 August 2015

How to Go Local in 1 Week

Thinking that making the switch to buying local is difficult? Think again! Here is how to go local in just one short week:

At the SGU Dome Greenhouse at UNBC

Day 1: Look at what you have at home.

Go through what you already have in your cupboards and evaluate where things are sourced from. Maybe you will notice those Hardbite chips you love are already locally produced or the that your organic butter is local too! Realizing what you have that is local will help you see how far (or not so far) you have to go!

Day 2: Shopping day

When going through your usual grocery store take stock of the local produce section, bulk or local sections that you may not have noticed before. Every item you pick up you can check where it comes from, a side effect of being a locavore is knowing what is in your food and where all of it comes from. There are apps that can help with this (10 food apps) and can help you identify where a product comes from and what company produced it. I would start by looking for products produced in your country and then narrow it down as much as you can to your region. 

Day 3: Find the local business's near you. 

You favourite spot could already be a local business and source local ingredients, if not you could explore what other options exist in your communities. Here in Prince George I am lucky because the cool bar in town, Nancy O's, also happens to be a local one and likes to source locally when possible. Say so long to the Walton's of Wal-Mart and the Billes at Canadian Tire and make the choice to visit small independently owned retailers. Switch to quality over convenience. Support families not corporations.  Put money into your neighbours pockets. 

Day 4: Find a Farmer

You can visit a Farmers Market, join a CSA or visit a farm stand to discover what produce is available right now in your community. Do a Google search or ask around at your farmers market to for more places you can go. 
CSA box from Hope Farm

Day 5: Grow Food

Be apart of the movement of people learning to grow their own food and take back the ability to create %100 local meals. Save money, learn about your food, be healthy, get a tan, sounds pretty good to me. 

Day 6: Thrift it

I am in the process of downsizing again before I move but it is a good idea to go through the things you don't need and do a little bit of a life cleanse. Then you can take everything you don't want and sell it on or Facebook or donate it to a local thrift store. Find your new favourite shops in town and learn that you don't really need to buy new as often as you'd think. Buying used clothes is essential to the local lifestyle unless you happen to be a seamstress who makes everything themselves  (that would be pretty rad).

Day 7: Be a Locavore

Now that you have become aware of your buying power you can be more diligent in your consumerism (hopefully consuming less all around!) You will be conscious of the purchases you make and weigh the values of local and seasonality like a pro.

Have a lovely local day,

Melanie XX

"...small individual actions can insight larger patterns of change." - Patterns of Awareness,