Yearning for Sustainable Learning

by Irene Kaloyannis Science and Policy Exchange

I love learning and believe it is important to stay informed on the topics that impact our lives, such as the state of the environment. If you go to a Cegep or university, you probably have access to WorldCat or to different research publication sites. If you have time to relax and learn about something that interests you, I highly suggest it! When I have some downtime, I like to polish up on different subtopics within environmental science, such as microplastics, ice floe melting and climate disaster resilience strategies. If you are not a student, Google Scholar offers access to lots of different research papers as well, you can use the search bar to look up whatever you want to learn about.

A laid-back long weekend, a slow start to summer vacation, a sick day — regardless of the reason behind your free time, here’s a list of 5 fun, free things to do during your time inside!

1. Watch documentaries

This is my absolute favorite thing to do whenever I stay home! Documentaries are a great way to learn a lot about a topic in a relatively short period of time (~2 hours). My personal favorite eco-documentaries are The True Cost (a 2015 flick tackling the many issues and inequalities behind the fashion industry), Artifishal (a 2019 film discussing the little-known downsides of fish hatcheries) and Albatross (a 2017 indie masterpiece that is both powerful and humbling, about some beautiful birds, how they live and what is changing for them).

Albatross was particularly poignant for me, as one of my favorite epic poems is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which is about a sailor who killed an innocent albatross and dealt with the horrible consequences of his greed.

2. Rent an eBook at your local library

Many libraries have the option to rent an eBook from home. Some recent books on the environment that I’ve gotten from my library and liked are Global Weirdness by Climate Central (a 2012 book that succinctly summarizes and simplifies the scientific evidence for climate change, perfect for beginners to environmentalism or those who want a more scientific base) and Building a Resilient Tomorrow by Alice C. Hill and Leonardo Martinez-Diaz (a 2020 book discussing the negative impacts of climate change on national security, the stock market & healthcare, and realistic solutions). A novel that I loved, and is possibly my favorite book ever, is Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I could never describe how beautiful and important Braiding Sweetgrass is with words; I can only insist you read it. Let me know if you enjoy it!

3. If you prefer to listen to your novels, try Audible for free!

I am the opposite of a fan of Amazon (reasons for which can be found in this video), but I have always wanted to try audiobooks. I learned pretty quickly that they are not my thing (I feel that I connect more with books when I read the words directly off the pages) — however, I know a lot of people really enjoy them. You are welcome to try Audible for 30 days, earning one audiobook credit, completely free. You are even able to keep that audiobook after you cancel your trial, which is precisely what I did. Some popular books on sustainability on Audible are Climate: A New Story by Charles Eisenstein, The Inner Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett and Emerald Cities by Joan Fitzgerald.

4. Watch some short films on the National Film Board website

We are lucky enough in Canada to have a historic agency that has funded the cinematic arts for decades, all over the nation, covering a variety of topics. There are some fascinating short films on the environment (my favorites are Island Green, Nowhere Land, Hand.Line.Cod and the Grasslands Projects series), and probably any other subject that interests you!

5. Binge some great YouTube channels

Not everyone is able to sit through an entire movie or read a book without getting bored or falling asleep. Luckily, on YouTube, you can find lots of super-short videos that target specific things you want to learn about. My favorite eco-YouTubers are Shelbizleee (talks about zero-waste solutions to nearly every common problem), Our Changing Climate (offers tons of interesting mini-documentaries on bigger environmental issues) and Heal Your Living (an extreme minimalist that really just inspires me to go lower- and lower-waste). Honourable mentions are: The Fairly Local Family (excellent videos on how to live low-waste as a family), A Small Wardrobe (great advice on how to reduce your wardrobe) and Homesteading Family (great advice on how to be self-sufficient and resourceful).

I especially liked Our Changing Climate’s video on which plant-based milk is most sustainable. Ever since I watched it, I’ve been making my own zero-waste oat milk using this recipe.

There is a lot you can learn at home online or in a book. I hope this list has provided you with some helpful tips on ways to learn while staying home!