How young people in Saskatchewan are living greener lives on a budget

·7 min read
Chasity Delorme is committed to learning from her elders about food sovereignty, and putting that knowledge into action in her home.  (Submitted by Chasity Delorme - image credit)
Chasity Delorme is committed to learning from her elders about food sovereignty, and putting that knowledge into action in her home. (Submitted by Chasity Delorme - image credit)

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By the time they turn 40, Lachlan Wiebe and his wife, Brittany, want to be able to turn off the gas meter at their house.

The couple has 12 years to develop the fossil fuel-free lifestyle of their dreams — and they're doing it without holing up in an off-the-grid cabin or by relying on expensive retrofits to their home.

Like many young people who talk the green talk, this eco-conscious Regina couple is walking the green walk one step at a time — and in affordable shoes. They say the way the world is changing, their goal is completely reasonable and attainable in a budget-conscious way, although a (stronger) leg up from the provincial government wouldn't hurt.

Laura Sciarpelletti/CBC
Laura Sciarpelletti/CBC

Investing in electric

The Wiebes started off their fossil fuel free by 40 journey by taking a sizable chunk out of their emissions: three months ago, they purchased an electric vehicle. Lachlan said he was able to get a Hyundai Ioniq 5 at a decent price thanks to the federal government's $5,000 electric vehicle rebate. (There is currently no Saskatchewan EV incentive.)

Their car payments are a bit more now, but Wiebe said "especially with gas prices the way they are now, the maintenance costs are next to nothing in comparison."

The couple used to spend approximately 12 cents a kilometre on their old vehicle. Now, charging costs work out to about three cents a kilometre for the EV. Wiebe estimates hundreds of dollars in savings a year.

CBC News Graphics
CBC News Graphics

The Wiebes have ditched fossil fuel for their weed wacker and snow blower, too — among other tools they have that are battery-operated. Lachlan encouraged people to use whatever tools they already have for as long as they can.

"But when you go to upgrade, absolutely look at something better. That's something I've always done is if I'm going to replace something, I want it to be better than it was before," he said.

"Even if it's just a little bit, everybody doing a little bit is better than everybody doing nothing."

The couple is growing as much of their own food as they can in an indoor garden using heat lamps, before going bigger outside in the spring, where they'll use collected rainwater.

They're also looking at redoing their eaves, soffit and fascia to properly vent air through the attic, which helps with retaining heat and airflow through the house. They also plan to eventually install triple pane windows and new doors to seal the house as much as possible.

Over the long term, the couple hopes to install solar panels on the house, and an electric water heater.

They've created a hashtag on social media — #FossilFuelFreeByForty — to document their journey and encourage others to join the ride.

Laura Sciarpelletti/CBC
Laura Sciarpelletti/CBC

Simple swaps

Taylor Dea agrees with Wiebe that you don't have to be a climate warrior to make a difference for the environment

"It's things like switching from your typical plastic toothbrush that goes into the landfill to a bamboo toothbrush, and then I've swapped from toothpaste tubes to just toothpaste tablets," said Dea, who lives in Saskatoon

Dea focuses on eliminating plastic any way she can with what she calls "simple swaps": from pump soap to bar soap, and disposable razors with a metal safety one. She even uses a bidet to save on toilet paper.

WATCH | Lachlan Wiebe and Taylor Dea walk through the eco-conscious changes the've made in their homes:

Video by Matt Duguid, Kirk Fraser and Travis Reddaway.

She does this all on a budget. Dea's husband is a full-time student, so the pair is mostly living off of a single income.

"I do know that people think that going zero waste or reducing your waste is a financial issue or a financial commitment that people just 'can't do.' But we're doing it on one income and it's just kind of the smaller swaps or prioritizing one thing over the other and making that decision to just commit to that," said Dea.

For those wanting to start making greener decisions in their homes, Dea suggests finding one new thing to change per month.

"Take one moment every month to look and say, what can we swap out in my life that can make an impact for the planet or for my future or for my kids' future?"

If you're looking for tips, Dea tracks her sustainable lifestyle choices on her Instagram account.

Travis Reddaway/CBC
Travis Reddaway/CBC

Food sovereignty

Chasity Delorme isn't only feeding sustainability tips to her community; she's quite literally helping to put food on the table in a more environmentally-conscious way.

Growing up on the Cowessess First Nation east of Regina, Delorme said she didn't understand the importance of knowing where one's food and water came from. Then she learned about the effects of colonization and capitalism on traditional methods of food gathering and storage.

Now, she focuses a lot of her attention on food sovereignty. That includes studying how her ancestors got their food.

"I want to live in those ways, and not only to help my family to eat more healthily, but to reclaim my Indigenous heritage and to ultimately help the environment. In the last few years, definitely food sovereignty has been a huge thing for me to start reclaiming … our historical ways of preserving and providing."

Submitted by Chasity Delorme
Submitted by Chasity Delorme

For three years now, Delorme has tried to get the bulk of her produce from her large garden in Regina. Any extras — and there are always extras — she shares with elders and others in her community.

She preserves the food in her garden longer by dehydrating it. She also reduces wastefulness in grocery stores by picking up aging produce and dehydrating it for later.

"It's saved my butt so many times," she said.

Buying less produce from stores means she's reducing plastic use as well. Delorme has switched from plastic containers to glass containers at home.

She's taken her lessons to her community, too.

"Culturally when we go to feast, we used to always bring Styrofoam. Well, we all know Styrofoam isn't good for the Earth. So from a cultural perspective, encouraging our community members to start using reusable bowls and glass makes sense."

Submitted by Chasity Delorme
Submitted by Chasity Delorme

Advocating for the Earth as part of her role as an Indigenous student advisor at Miller Comprehensive High School and Dr. Martin LeBoldus Catholic High School in Regina is important to her as well.

"Every time I find a teaching moment, I'm always all over that," Delorme said.

"We need to start teaching the next generations that our food isn't from Walmarts — it actually comes from the ground and the earth — so that there's a better appreciation of the environment."

Submitted by Chasity Delorme
Submitted by Chasity Delorme

What government can do

Bob Halliday, vice-president of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, said that while there are many little green changes we can make on a budget, part of the responsibility is on the provincial government to encourage individuals to make as many eco-friendly choices as possible — and there's more it could be doing.

The organization recommends the provincial government establish a network of electric vehicle charging stations powered largely by solar energy, for example.

"Even if the province helped a used car market in electric vehicles or did provide a subsidy that would allow people to get into that area that would be [great]. Because once they have the car, the cost of running it is trivial," Halliday said

CBC News
CBC News

Saskatchewan is one of the few provinces that doesn't provide direct funding to municipalities specifically for transportation upgrades. This, he said, could put more people on public transit and lower emissions as a result.

Plastic bag and composting efforts are also left up to municipalities.

The Government of Saskatchewan does offer the Provincial Home Renovation Tax Credit to help homeowners with renovations that improve energy efficiency. There are a few other subsidies for retrofitting homes and buildings, but some are set to expire by the summer.

"I kind of like the home and office retrofit programs because they're a way of engaging the public directly, and I think people need to sort of take some personal ownership," Halliday said.

"With the climate change issue ... retrofitting your home to make it more comfortable and to lower your costs is certainly a plus."

The Saskatchewan Environmental Society is asking for the energy efficiency provisions in Saskatchewan's building code to be upgraded by 2024 and to become net zero energy-ready by 2028.

"I think keeping our focus on the big ticket items is certainly something that needs to be done," Halliday said.

Government environmental subsidies

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