Celebrating Volunteer Week and Earth Day During COVID-19

April 24th, 2020

Volunteers plant a tree at Kawartha Heights Park with GreenUP’s Sustainable Urban Neighbourhoods program. In 2019, volunteers helped this program plant over 1,200 square metres of gardens and trees.

By Leif Einarson, Communications and Marketing Co-ordinator at GreenUP

April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. This week is also National Volunteer Week. We have a lot to reflect upon and many people to recognize during this global pandemic and the ongoing climate emergency.

At the end of this article I share some recommendations about how to celebrate Earth Day during COVID-19, but I want to begin by recognizing the importance of volunteers during this time of crisis.

It’s time to applaud Canada’s volunteers

“Volunteers work year-round to address critical social, economic, and environmental issues and the generosity is only amplified during floods, forest fires, and public health emergencies,” says Paula Speevak, Volunteer Canada President and CEO.

“This year, we want to shine the spotlight on those volunteering to support essential services during this public health crisis, and to salute those who help by staying home to protect themselves and their communities.”

Every year approximately 12.7 million volunteers contribute over $55 billion per year to the Canadian economy, according to Volunteer Canada. In Peterborough, volunteers are helping fight COVID-19 by sewing thousands of masks and organizing food drives.

For example, a little over a month ago the shelves at Kawartha Food Share started to look empty. Approximately 9,000 community members depend on Kawartha Food Share and would be unable to stay healthy and stay home during COVID-19 without that support.

To address that urgent need, Megan Murphy, Lois Tuffin and 100 other volunteers gathered more than 22,000 pounds of donated food as part of the “Spare a Square Food Drive.” On behalf of everyone at GreenUP, thank you for your remarkable work making the fight against COVID-19 sustainable for some of our most vulnerable community members.

If you are in a position to help, please consider donating to KawarthaFoodShare.com or helping with the donation requests listed at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre: https://www.prhc.on.ca/cms/covid-19-novel-coronavirus#Donations

To celebrate National Volunteer Week, everyone at GreenUP would also like to recognize the amazing volunteers who contributed to the remarkable success of our programs and projects in 2019.

In seems like a lifetime ago, but in fall 2019 volunteers helped depave the boulevard outside the GreenUP Store & Resource Centre. “We had such a great time,” shares Hannah McFarlane, who has volunteered at several Depave Paradise projects. “We’re all feeling like we can do anything together now that we’ve done that!”

“Volunteers give our community roots,” says Heather Ray, Manager of Water Programs at GreenUP. “In 2019 the Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood program planted over 1,200 square metres of gardens. Volunteers made that possible by getting dirty, digging, planting, watering, documenting, and most importantly smiling together. It is not merely the gardens that grow, but also the shared knowledge that is exchanged between volunteers, staff, local businesses, and additional community members.”

One of GreenUP’s highlights for 2019 was witnessing the volunteer students, teachers, and artists come together to create a mural behind the Brookdale Plaza as part of the NeighbourPLAN program.

“I am so grateful for the amazing volunteer efforts of teachers, school administrators, parents, and student leaders who support Active School Travel PTBO,” says Lindsay Stroud, Manager of Transportation and Urban Design at GreenUP. “Without these volunteers our active school travel programs could not have engaged over 7,000 participants in 2019.”

Every year volunteer students at Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School prepare hundreds of native seedlings that are then sold to appreciative customers at the Ecology Park Garden Market. This year, the closure of schools due to COVID-19 prevented this from happening, but GreenUP’s team is thinking of all those students and their families as everyone works together to stay home and flatten the curve.

“GreenUP Ecology Park was built by the strong support of volunteers from our community” observes Vern Bastable, Manager of Ecology Park. “During my years at Ecology Park we have had a number of spectacular volunteers. I also want to express special appreciation for the GreenUP staff, and their families and friends, who volunteer so much of their time to Ecology Park. The place is magical, but it is the people who make it sparkle.”

Dedicated volunteers, board members, committee members, and advocates have helped GreenUP accomplish so much over the years. This week and every week, we thank you.

Click the image below to read more about what you have helped us accomplish in our 2019 Annual Report:

Safely celebrating Earth Day during COVID-19

During COVID-19, GreenUP is encouraging everyone to celebrate volunteers and the 50th anniversary of Earth Day by following the instructions of Peterborough Public Health. Stay home as much as you can. Practice physical distancing. Wash your hands properly. If you must go out, use a mask.

I am sad to say that these measures mean no Earth Day community clean-up events. Learning how to live in more healthy and sustainable ways is not cancelled. In fact, some sustainability tips and tricks can be quite helpful during COVID-19.

To celebrate Earth Day during COVID-19 GreenUP encourages two things. First, if you are in a position to help essential workers, healthcare workers, and the more vulnerable individuals in our community during COVID-19, please do so. The more we all work together to get through this, the more sustainable our collective efforts will be.

Second, consider celebrating Earth Day everyday by reflecting on your own personal choices and these four categories of waste reduction as you spend more time at home.

1) Consider choices that support a circular economy (re-using) instead of a linear economy (single-use only).

This may seem tricky during COVID-19. For example, we need to respect that many grocery stores are prohibiting re-usable grocery bags and re-fillable containers in order to protect front-line workers and other shoppers from the spread of COVID-19.

Instead, during COVID-19 look for ways to shift away from ownership and towards access. For example, instead of thinking of Amazon as your go-to for purchases and deliveries, consider alternatives like accessing e-books and streaming services through the Peterborough Public Library.

Also, try to re-use plastics and, before recycling them, ensure they are clean and properly sorted according to local requirements. You can learn more at PlasticsActionCentre.ca (https://plasticactioncentre.ca/directory/?locations=on)

2) Try some sustainable approaches to maintaining your wardrobe and textiles:

Learn more here:  https://wrwcanada.com/en/2019-theme-days/textiles-tuesday 

Please respect that many charities that normally accept clothing donations are not accepting clothing donations during COVID-19. Always check before donating.

If you want to repurpose fabrics in your stash, Madderhouse Textiles Studios, in partnership with the New Canadian Centre and Repair Cafe Peterborough, is accepting fabric donations so that local volunteers can sew caps and masks: https://www.madderhouse.com/volunteer

3) Reduce electronic waste.

Many of us are relying on electronic devices to work or learn from home during COVID-19. If you need something, reach out to ReBoot for a repair or a refurbished product before considering a new product: https://www.rebootcanada.ca/shop/

4) Reduce food waste.

Tyler Scott’s family uses a white board in their kitchen to create lists of things to purchase, items to use up, and inspiration for their weekly meals. This approach helps them to reduce the number of trips they make and also helps to avoid food waste.

Tyler Scott’s family uses a white board in their kitchen to create lists of things to purchase, items to use up, and inspiration for their weekly meals. This approach helps them to reduce the number of trips they make and also helps to avoid food waste.

Many people are now cooking more at home and reducing shopping trip frequency. Read our recent article about grocery planning during COVID-19 for tips and tricks that save food and save money: https://www.greenup.on.ca/zerowaste-feature-grocery-and-meal-planning/

We are already facing many challenges because of COVID-19. This year it may not be healthy for you to feel pressured to rise to multiple challenges for Earth Day. Instead, let’s work together to find solutions and make life at home during this difficult time more sustainable for us and for the environment.

If you are looking for more tips and ideas, or have some of your own to share, please find us @PtboGreenUP on social media.

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