Saving the environment could be as easy as cleaning out the cupboard under the kitchen sink.
According to the Canadian documentary “Chemerical,” North Americans are poisoning themselves every day through the use of toxic chemicals in their households.
The documentary was shown last week as part of the monthly series, Green Wednesdays, held at the Kwantlen Langley campus on the second second Wednesday of every month. It follows the story of a family attempting to live chemical-free for 90 days.
The environmentally themed evening, hosted by Kwantlen’s School of Horticulture and the Green Ideas Network, is designed to show solution-based films to students and the general public about current environmental issues.
“The whole point of the Green Wednesdays is to give people some exposure to some of the kinds of issues around sustainability and the environment and our personal footprints on the planet, on whatever topic it happens to be,” said Gary Jones, horticulture instructor and event organizer.
In the documentary, there are many funny and emotional moments as the Goode family quickly realizes how dependent they are on chemicals in their home. According to the film, the average household has more than 40 toxic items that contain dozens of harmful chemicals known to contribute to health problems, including sterilization and cancer. The film suggests that this is directly related to studies showing that women who stay at home have a risk of cancer 43 per cent higher than those who work outside the home.
Products such as laundry detergent, window cleaner and even deodorant and cosmetics expose people to chemicals including trichlosan (a known carcinogen used in antibacterial products,) chlorine ( the number one toxic chemical in the home, used in bleach) and ammonia (used in cleaners) on a daily basis.
“I always try and buy green products, and it’s surprising just knowing that everyday products are pretty dangerous,” said Rachel Sproule, a first-time attendee to Green Wednesdays. “How are all of these products allowed on the market without any sort of warnings?”
Andrew Nisker, director of “Chemerical,” explores loopholes in the regulation system of the cleaner and cosmetic industries. Companies avoid labelling many ingredients in their products to protect “trade secrets.” Nisker reported on a study of 33 different brands of red lipstick that found 61 per cent of them to contain lead.
“If you can’t eat it, then you shouldn’t be putting it on your skin,” said an owner of a natural product company also showcased in the film.
Jones says that the point of showing these films is not to depress people, but to educate them and motivate them to make changes.
“It’s not just come here, listen to a movie about how there is going to be no oil here in 10 years time, go home and slash your wrists kind of deal. I like people to go home inspired enough to go find out about the subject and make their own informed decisions on what they are looking in to.”
Nichole Marples, executive director of the Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS) says “It all comes down to awareness. People saying, ‘Oh gee, I never thought of that before.’ I think these Green Wednesdays are awesome because they open the conversation, get people thinking about, ‘Oh gee, maybe that’s not the greatest thing’ or, ‘Oh, I’ve been using this for years and I didn’t actually understand it.’”
Jones says it is important that people begin to pay attention to the effects they are having on the earth and to make conscious decisions to change their habits.
“It’s life and death. How more important could it be? There’s some scary stuff out there, and we don’t know half of it. We have no idea. That’s what’s really scary, that we think we’re in control, but we have no clue really,” he said.
Joyce Rostron, vice-president of the Green Ideas Network, shares the same ideals.
“I do this for my children. They will really look to the future with open eyes. They won’t be so closed-minded about things,” she said.
Jones adds, “People come [to Green Wednesdays] for all sorts of reasons. My hope is that they go away a little bit more educated about some of these things. They’re not going to know everything about the topic, but if they can go away and get really interested they might go and do their own bit of research. Who knows?”
Another round of Green Wednesdays at Kwantlen is almost here.
This Wednesday, the School of Horticulture and the Green Ideas Network will be showing “Dirt: The Movie” at the Langley Kwantlen campus.
Gary Jones, Horticulture Instructor at Kwantlen, says, “It’s really a time for some informal education around issues of sustainability and it provides a venue for people to come together to discuss these things in a very informal setting.”
Typically, a Green Wednesday begins with an environmentally-themed movie. Then there is a break, where people can have something to eat and drink, before door prizes are awarded. The door prizes are from the event’s sponsors: A Bread Affair and Ladybug Organics.
The rest of the evening is left open for when there is a guest speaker, such as last month when the movie makers of “The Clean Bin Project” arrived to talk and answer questions at the event.
“We try to have some take-home action points as to what we can do in terms of personally at home or in our individual communities to make some changes,” Jones said.
An average of somewhere between 50 and 60 people attend the monthly Green Wednesdays, but Jones said that this number is steadily increasing.
“At the last event, which was the first of the season, we had 130 people,” Jones said.
This Wednesday, as well as showing the short 40-minute film “Dirt: The Movie,” some of the movie’s special features will be shown.
“I want to show two of them in particular,” Jones said. “One is about landscape planning and town planning, and how that effects soil and how that affects community. And the other one is about schools and bringing education around soil, food production, sustainability and food security into the classroom.
“I’d like people to go away with something that they can actually think about doing.”
Green Wednesdays are held at the Langley Kwantlen campus in Room 1325, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. and the movie starting at 7. Admission is by donation.
Film screenings and discussion forums on contemporary issues are a common part of university culture, but Gary Jones thinks his evening series of documentary films and speakers at Kwantlenâ€™s Langley campus is more than just a clichÃ©d fixture of campus life.
For the last two years, Jones, chair of Production Horticulture at Kwantlenâ€™s Langley campus, has been organizing a monthly evening of films and discussion on sustainable agriculture, called Green Wednesdays.
Beginning in October and ending in March, the event happens on the second Wednesday of every month in one of the labs that Jones teaches in at the Langley campus.
Jones began the event as a government-funded speaker series in the fall of 2008, but government funding was eventually curtailed, forcing him to look elsewhere for material to inspire discussion.
Luckily, people involved in the Green Ideas Network, a Burnaby-based environmental advocacy organization, were looking for a new venue for to the Surrey Environmental Film Festival. Jones linked up with the network, and began hosting evenings of film, discussion and networking around an array of environmental issues.
So far this year, Jones and his students have shown features dealing with peak oil, energy use and climate change, all films that highlight the need for people to consider more sustainable lifestyles. This Wednesday, Jones, his students and some members of the Langley community will gather to watch Good Food, a 2008 film about the resurgence of small-scale, family-run farming initiatives in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
Participation in setting up and promoting the evening has become required coursework for students in Jonesâ€™ Sustainable Horticulture class. Students help organize the event and do assignments based on the films being shown.
â€œItâ€™s a good way for the students to get involved and to make connections out there with the organic community and the public who turn out,â€ said Jones.
Jones is enthusiastic about the potential for exposing people to the broader issues that affect the environment. He is aware that the evening has an outreach potential, in that it brings people to the campus who might not otherwise.
â€œOne of my desires for the Green Wednesdays was to use it as a link between the community and the school, so people in Langley or Surrey or wherever could come on to the campus when they might otherwise not do so,â€ said Jones.
â€œThe evenings are bringing new information to the students, but theyâ€™re also getting the students to share their information with the public. Itâ€™s a good way of extending the education to the wider community,â€ said Jones.
The event took place at the Langley Campus and was hosted by the Green Ideas Network and Gary Jones, Kwantlen horticulture instructor and chair of greenhouse and retail production.
Jones began Green Wednesdays a year ago and says he does it â€œso that we leave our kids something to actually live on.â€
Wednesday’s movie, The Power of Community: How Cuba survived Peak Oil, describes Cubaâ€™s struggle after losing access to oil, â€œthe first country to face the crisis we will all face.â€
At first, buses ran only every three to four hours, blackouts to save energy made keeping food in the fridge impossible and people lost as average of 20 pounds as food was scarce.
The Cuban people adapted in a variety of ways and scenes of people planting lettuce and selling their bounty in local markets of tight-knit communities showed the possibility of living oil free.
Lee Carter, 62, says Cuba changed because they had the motivation â€œand for us itâ€™s easier to go to the grocery store than it is to grow our own.â€
Tom McMath, 65, a physics and engineering instructor at Kwantlen, says the film was really about the triumph of the human spirit. His wife Sharon McMath, 61, an avid gardener saw it as â€œthe way the future should be.â€
The second part of the evening featured the movie â€œEnergy Efficiency and Renewablesâ€ and was wrapped up with a door prizes and a question-and-answer period with Tim Cooper, an instructor in the physics department a the University of the Fraser Valley.
Kwantlenâ€™s Langley campus will promote environmentally-conscious ideas in a new series called Green Wednesdays. Every second Wednesday of each month will be devoted to movies that deal with environmental issues, as well as presentations about sustainability and healthy living.
Gary Jones, horticulture instructor at Kwantlen, is putting on the event along with the Green Ideas Network. Jones says that the event is open to everyone because “we want what we do here to be relative to the community.”
Jones said that last semester, they put on a similar event called the Environment Around Us, which was held only three times in the spring. He said that they had a great turnout and, by the last event, they had 120 people show up.
This year, the Green Ideas Network approached Jones and said it wanted to get involved and include its movie picks in the itinerary. Jones, along with students from Kwantlen and the horticulture sector, set up the evening, bring in guest speakers and make sure that everything is running smoothly.
The Green Ideas network, consists of two women, Doreen Dosdwell and Joyce Rostron. It’s a non-profit society, based in Surrey. Jones said that Dewell and Roston share his goal for the environmental series, which is “to make people more aware of issues surrounding food security, community development landscape, housing development.”
Jones said that he hopes people will leave the series with an idea about issues such as sustainability, alternatives to oil and challenges to the food supply. He hopes that people will teach these issues to other members of their communities so people will “decide to do something, specifically, that they can implement themselves and make a change on a local level.”
The first Green Wednesday will be held Wednesday, Oct. 8 at the Langley campus auditorium. King of Corn, a movie about farmers finding out what happens to their crops in a “fast-food nation.” Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 for the general public and $4 for students.