Take action

About 15 months ago, this incarnation of the Greenpeace Vancouver local volunteer group started, and we’ve been doing all sorts of things. I meant to write about it after a year had passed but life happened to me in all sorts of ways so here I am, better late than even later.  Here is some of what we’ve been up to.

April 2018  – Earth Day and our Inception!

Our first outing as a group in April 2018 was to Earth Day parade when there was just four of us in the group – the youngest member being my daughter Minagua, back when it was easy to just take her along anywhere. To this day, we are all still involved as very active members. Ella  mainly with our Greenspeakers program, and Ekaterina, leading our art builds and much more !

June 2018 – Our Plastic Monster

In June 2018 , our first big project was a plastic monster, in snake form. We never did give him a name, but he is still haunting GP warehouse and shedding disposable plastic. I hope we will rework him some day soon and give him a second lease on life, on his mission to call attention to our terrible plastics problem. Maybe we could call him Messy (Get it? Like Nessy, the lake monster?, or like the soccer player who cheats on taxes?) and parade him in some other gathering of people.

For his first appearance, we took him to Car Free Day where  we had a Greenpeace booth set up to speak with people about our Break Free from Plastics campaign.  We asked folks to sign a pledge to take action on plastic pollution and  to receive a toolkit to support them.
This was the start of our activities and we were very excited!

After that we also started Greenspeakers, with the help of Michael Suksi a volunteer Greenpeace organizer in Toronto. The first presentation happened in November and we  had 3 more school presentations after that, with more planned for the next school year! 

One small offshoot of Greenspeakers is Green Babies, an initiative to educate new parents at midwiferies about sustainable baby rearing. So far I have given 2 presentations!

September 2018 – Vancouver Beach Clean Up and Brand Audit

In September,  we participated in a big countrywide beach clean up and brand audit, where we found out our beaches are riddled with all the detritus created by companies shutting their eyes to the mess they create and refusing to consider more sustainable options. Massive top polluting companies like Nestle and Tim Hortons,  could wield so much power for good if they chose to.

Also in September, we  tried our hand at a fundraiser, to raise money for people arrested protesting the Transmountain pipeline. This endeavour did not meet with great success I have to say. Having organized a few events for Pull Together before I felt pretty confident we could pull this off but somehow, I messed up the communication with our lovely sponsors Chickpea and we never got the food they were so kindly donating, and the concert pretty much felt like my birthday as most of the 20 people in attendance were my personal friends. 

However, we got to enjoy the charming quirky protest accordion music of geoff Berner, one of my favourite Vancouver live gigs, in an intimate setting! He has a brilliant song about building oil pipelines in this day and age.  That night, we also danced to the vibes of PachaPapa. 

Denise Brennan, manager of The Pace coworking space (where we held the event) put it best: “Vancouver is like that, you just never know is gonna fly. You just have to try.” So, we did, and I think we won’t do it again for a while. 

November 2018 – Plastic Attack!

Our next adventure was a Plastic Attack ! Modelled after something we had seen in a video from the UK, 7 of us  went to two supermarkets to challenge the proliferation of single use plastics . You can read about it here in our blog. Suffice it to say, we got kicked out of Whole Foods and I am proud of it.

We also sat down during our meetings and wrote letters to MPs and ministers about plastic pollution, still waiting to hear back…

March 2019 – MORE Plastic Attacks!

Our second Plastic Attack was at Superstore, and we partnered with 3 families who did their weekly grocery shop. We gave them reusable containers and helped them transfer their food into them after paying. We then left a cart filled with a pretty depressing amount of (mostly) soft plastics and delivered a letter to customer service asking them to phase out this kind of packaging in their stores. Sadly, we haven’t heard back.

That month, we also set up a Greenpeace table at the Sustainability fair at UBC, where we spoke to students about our campaigns, and  we wondered why about 90% of people who signed up to receive our volunteer newsletter were female. (Hmmm … still thinking about that one)

April 2019 – Earth Day united!

In April, we returned to Earth Day parade, after having created a brilliant banner at our art build

May 2019 – Town Hall for a Green New Deal

In May, we joined forces with 350 Vancouver  to host a big town hall for the Green New Deal, where we heard from people from all walks of life on their vision for a Green New Deal. Answers were recorded and together with many other town halls across the country, formed a chorus or a cacophony  of voices that was later distilled into this comprehensive and uplifting proposal.

June 2019 – Engaging with Kids and Making BIG Polluters Pay

This year, we also returned to Car Free Day.  This time to talk to people about our Protect the Oceans campaign, asking them to sign a petition for the UN to protect 30 % of the ocean by 2030  by creating a global network of ocean sanctuaries that would put millions of square kilometres off limits to destructive industries. We asked children to help us paint a message about our love for the ocean to send it to our Canadian government ahead of the talks at the UN about this proposal. 

In June, we also organized public deputations at Vancouver City Hall – supporting people that wanted to speak out in support of a motion to hold BIG polluters accountable for their fair share of the climate crisis.  You can read my blog on that awesome experience here and you can watch snippets of the speeches here!

August 2019 – Artivism! Culture Jamming, Art Deliveries, Screen Printing, and Street Murals !

August was busy and creative month! We joined Greenpeace staff and Sustainabiliteens  and participated in a global day of culture jamming as part of Greenpeace’s  People vs Oil  campaign.  Our action joined the network of 28+ actions that took place in city streets around the world bringing public attention to the worlds’ worst oil companies and their connection to the climate disasters around the world such as floods and fires. Watch this awesome video showcasing  these united actions from around the world featuring Vancouver’s awesome SOS image near the end!

On the 19th of August, representatives from many countries debated at the UN about whether to implement a strong global ocean treaty that would create a network of marine sanctuaries in the high seas.  On this day, we went to the office of the Canadian Minister for Oceans and Fisheries, to express our hope that we would back the strongest possible treaty, and to deliver letters from both the local group and from Greenpeace Canada’s executive director.

We also delivered one of the ocean themed paintings which was collectively made by many children at Car Free Day. The Minister was not there, but his staff were very friendly and seemed very relieved  on discovering the big canvas we were holding up in front of their office was a charming colourful kid’s painting. I wonder what they had been expecting. 

Also in August, we collaborated with Vancouver 350 at an art build for the climate strikes and coordinated some screen-printing for the Green New Deal! We used a screen with a design by toronto-based Artist Manar Hossain, who had been  commissioned by Greenpeace!

At the end of August, we collaborated with Families for a Safe Climate to bring the ideas and vision of the Green New Deal to more people. We engaged with so many new people and encouraged them  to join us in more DIY screen printing of Green New Deal t-shirts and tote bags at the Trout Lake Park Farmers Market. The result was many pretty t-shirts enriched with optimistic political art and many interesting conversations. We were gratified to be able to share the vision for a Green New Deal so many people who were generally really worried about climate change and inequality.  It felt great sharing positive solutions to help mitigate the problems – bringing Canada into this era of renewables while creating prosperity, inclusion and exciting new possibilities.

And finally, we wrapped up the month in training with Greenpeace, learning how to organize and implement a street mural  in preparation for the Global Climate Strike on September 27th!

September 2019  – Student Strikes and Bird-dogging!

Exciting things were still happening!  We began an inspiring collaboration with the student strikers at Sustainabiliteens Vancouver. I hatched this plan with Andrew from 350 Vancouver to get as many groups as possible together to coordinate everyone’s actions for the day of the Climate Strike on September 27th.  There ended up being quite a few groups involved!  It turned into biweekly meetings sitting down with Sustainabiliteens to figure out ways to follow their lead and support these youth. Exciting times!

Alongside all the planning and striking  in September, we also found time for more training! We coordinated a Birdogging workshop with trainer Sophie Birks,  Greenpeace Vancouver’s Offline Mobilization Campaigner. If you don’t know, Bird-dogging is a powerful tool for ensuring your concerns are heard  by our political leaders. Learn more by checking out Greenpeace’s Birdogging toolkit.   

So What’s Next?

We are excited about what’s next. We have plans in the works for a Climate Justice Theater workshop before the end of the year.  As well, we’ve put our feelers out there to plan something of a zero waste/maker-space type event  coinciding with Black Friday and the concurrent Buy Nothing Day!  Stay tuned on more for us.

Will you Join us? Get Involved!

To organize with our Greenpeace Vancouver local group, please connect with us directly at vancouverlocalgroup@greenpeace.ca.

All are welcome.  Join our group on Greenwire. 


Sofia Engelbrecht is a Vancouver-based activist, mom
and organizer with the Greenpeace Vancouver volunteer local group.