About 15 months ago, this incarnation of the 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.
Our first outing as a group in April 2018 was at the Earth day parade. The youngest member in this photo was my daughter Minagua, back when it was easy to just take her along anywhere.To this day these are two very active members: Ella mainly with Greenspeakers and Ekaterina leading our art builds and much more !
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.
That time we took him to Car Free day with us, we had a booth there and we spoke to people about the Break Free from Plastics campaign and had them sign the pledge to receive the toolkit. This was the start of our activities and we were very excited!
After that we also started Greenspeakers, with the help of Michael Suksi in Toronto. The first presentation was in November and we have had 3 school presentations after that, with more coming in the next school year!
One small offshoot of Greenspeakers is Green Babies, an initiative to educate new parents at midwiferies about sustainable baby rearing.
In September, we also 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 companies like Nestle and Tim Hortons, who could wield such a 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 about 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 We also danced to the vibes of PachaPapa. Denise Brennan, manager of The Pace co-working 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.
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. You can read about it here. 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, yet we are still waiting to hear back from them.
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 after paying. Then we left a cart filled with a pretty depressing amount of mostly soft plastics and delivered a letter to customer service. We haven’t heard back.
We had a table at the Sustainability fair at UBC, where we spoke to students about our campaigns. We wondered why about 90% of people who signed up to receive our volunteer newsletter were female! (still thinking about that one).
In April, we returned to the Earth Day parade, after having created a brilliant banner at our art-build.
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 what they wanted to see in a Green New Deal proposal. 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 proposal.
We also returned to Car Free Day, this time to talk to people about Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign, asking them to sign a petition for the UN to protect 30 % of the ocean by 2030. We asked children to help us paint a message about our love for the ocean.
In June, we organized public deputations – people wanting to speak at city hall in support of a motion to hold polluters accountable. You can read my blog on that here and you can watch snippets of the awesome speeches here.
In July, we joined Greenpeace staff on the #people vs oil global day of action for some culture jamming/ad busting fun. Read the blog here describing how thousands around the world participated in creative actions using street art to expose the truth about big oil and the climate crisis. Watch the short action video too highlighting the culmination of events in 28 global cities++
August was a busy month! On the 19th of August, representatives from many countries were starting to debate at the UN about whether to implement a strong global ocean treaty that would create a network of marine sanctuaries in the high seas, and protect at least 30 % of the world’s oceans. On this day, we went to the office of the Canadian minister for Oceans and Fisheries, to express our hope that he will back the strongest possible treaty, and to deliver a letter from us, and another letter and a brief from Greenpeace’s executive director.
We also delivered one of the ocean themed paintings that was collectively created by children at our booth 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 did some screen printing for the Green New Deal! We had a pre-made screen with a design by Toronto-based artist Manar Hossain, commissioned by Greenpeace, and the results were many hand-printed shirts enriched with optimistic political art, plus many interesting conversations which followed.
At the end of August, we did more screen printing! We collaborated with Families for a Safe Climate to discuss the ideas of the Green New Deal at the Trout Lake park Farmers market. We screen printed more totes and shirts in the process and we were gratified to be able to share the vision of the Green New Deal with so many people who are worried about climate change and inequality. It felt good to be able to share how Canada could mitigate both and enter into an era of renewables while creating prosperity, inclusion and exciting new possibilities.
Other exciting things happening at the moment is the inspiring collaboration with the student strikers at Sustainabliteens. I hatched this plan with Andrew from 350 Vancouver – hoping to get as many group as possible together to coordinate what everyone was doing for the #GlobalClimateStrike in Vancouver. There ended up being quite a few groups on the list, and this has turned into biweekly meetings with Sustainabiliteens – figuring out ways to support them while following their lead. Exciting times!
And finally, we wrapped up our summer summer getting trained in various tactics like street murals and birddogging – both creative and useful tactics in getting the attention of our political leaders in the lead up to our Federal election 2019! Other things coming up?! Climate Justice Theatre anyone?!
Stay tuned for more exciting projects and opportunities to join the movement.
To get involved with the Vancouver Local Group, please contact us directly at: [email protected]
Sofia Engelbrecht is a Vancouver-based activist, mom and organizer
with the Greenpeace Vancouver volunteer local group.