Waste Watchers, and other weak puns

And Happy Friday, wonderful people!

Hi! I’m Sarah. Minimum Viable Planet is my weeklyish newsletter about climateish stuff, and how to keep it together in a world gone mad. I’m always curious to know what you think.

I’ve been nursing a wasteful idea for a few months. This week I was afforded the opportunity to workshop said idea, or at least aerate it, like a well-tended compost heap. There is an increasingly codified How To Talk Climate With People Who Aren’t Like You body of research, and while I agree with the general gist (find shared interest, make it relatable), I’ve long had a gnawing feeling that “find common ground” is not as helpful a directive as it needs to be.

I picture a well-meaning activist talking to a MAGA hat. “Hey, you like hats? I like hats, too...so...climate change.” For “find common ground” to work it has to be deeply and earnestly felt. It must also be accompanied by a desire to listen, openly and honestly. That’s soooo hard. Sometimes you have no common ground. Sometimes you need pragmatic, instantaneous agreement. And so I humbly suggest: Get wasted!

Waste is a unifier. You don’t even have to believe in climate change to hate waste. Both a conservative and a liberal will not let you throw out that that last piece of molten chocolate cake. Both a conservative and liberal will tell you not to pour money into the garbage. Especially if there is already a delicious piece of chocolate cake in there that you can fish out.

At a literal level, waste is carbon emissions. Food waste, languishing in landfills, produces methane, which is 24 times as potent as carbon. And in Canada, a whopping 58% of the food we produce goes to waste. Holy mother of a buffet! But at the same time, you can skip the emissions talk and keep it all about waste if you’re talking to a denier. Don’t save the food because you care about climate, save food because you’re thrifty and it’s delicious.

At a great panel yesterday I got to try this messaging out first-hand. The topic was how to make film production more energy efficient here in Canada, how to advocate for climate, how to lobby production and film agencies to level up our goals. An affable audience member raised his hand and said that while he wasn’t sure if carbon was a thing (I paraphrase), he had worked on set for a long time and was put off by the waste, and wanted actionable steps to reduce it. Cue my handy, eminently appalling stat about food waste.

While I didn’t get to do a full exit interview with this friendly carbon skeptic, anecdotal evidence (gentle head nodding) suggests the idea of eradicating waste was landing. You can be as climate dubious as the last remaining Koch brother and still hate the idea of a useful thing going to waste. Fiscally-minded conservatives are here for it. Conserving is in their name, after all.

Would this conversational weigh-in hold up to peer-reviewed scrutiny? I’m not sure, but if you have the opportunity to try out waste as a gateway climate convo, pretty please, with a salvaged cherry on top, let me know how it goes.

THIS WEEK: Waste Audit

What I love about food waste as a climate issue is both its salty salience, and the fact that it’s a continuum issue-one that can be worked on from the cozy personal dinner plate (buy less food, use it all) all the way to the macro (sweeping policy and industry systems change). What’s your food waste story?

LAST WEEK: Sleepless Nights

Write lovely Janou-Eve - 

I do not sleep well about climate change. I am afraid for my 8-year-old son's future. I try to do everything I can in my power to reduce my waste. I eat biological (organic) food and support my local farmers with Equiterre’s farmer program. I work from home and I buy trees to compensate my GES in French (greenhouse gas emission?). And I am about to write this graphic novel book.

(Note: Janou-Eve will be writing/drawing an amazing graphic book about all of this. I know that doing so will help with the sleeplessness! Just writing your thoughts out can help so much.)


  • Dorkily excited about Bill McKibben’s new climate newsletter for the New Yorker (though it really could use a better name). Maybe you are too?

  • This week’s newsletter was brought to you by the film Wasted! The Story of Food Waste. (Well, not literally). It’s a slightly on-the-nose (to tail) doc that gives you much to think about when it comes to how we eat and waste, with surprisingly hilarious insights from Mario Batali, Dan Barber, and Anthony Bourdain (RIP). 

  • Need some climate hilarity and yet another way of reminding friends and ferns to TALK ABOUT CLIMATE? Watch Rick Roberts’ and Gord Rand’s absolutely perfect little video. Climate Mime FTW!

As always, TELL ME HOW TO MAKE THIS BETTER! Shouty caps or no.
And heart if you like, heart twice if you don’t.

Have a beautiful weekend!