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April 1 - April 30, 2021
Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar

Matthieu De Bellefeuille

JAC Sustainability

"In the summer of 2019, I got to work for one summer as a research assistant at McGill with assistant professor Christian von Sperber et professor Tim Moore, both of whom work on wetland science (specifically the soil science of wetlands, peatlands, bogs and other semi-aquatic biomes). I grew a liking to these biomes and I would love to see them be protected and respected for their unique ecological properties and benefits. This is what I will try to push for."

Points Total

  • 0 Today
  • 0 This Week
  • 1,333 Total

Participant Impact

  • up to
    1
    documentaries
    watched
  • up to
    455
    minutes
    spent learning
  • up to
    31
    meatless or vegan meals
    consumed
  • up to
    1,800
    minutes
    being mindful
  • up to
    120
    minutes
    spent outdoors
  • up to
    3
    public officials or leaders
    contacted

Matthieu's Actions

Transportation

Muscle Power on Earth Day

I will cut green house gas emissions related to my commute to John Abbott College on Earth day, April 22. I will only use muscle-powered transportation (walk, bike, skateboard) for my commute.

Completed
One-Time Action

Food, Agriculture, and Land Use

Keep Track of Wasted Food

Reduced Food Waste

I will keep a daily log of food I throw away during Earth Month Ecochallenge, either because it went bad before I ate it, I put too much on my plate, or it was scraps from food preparation.

COMPLETED 28
DAILY ACTIONS

Action Track: Accelerating Solutions

Save Rigaud Mountain

Rigaud Mountain is an expansive natural resource that we rely upon to run many of our Outdoor Education courses, here at JAC. It is under extreme pressure from development and mismanagement, and in desperate need of protection. Facing COVID and the Climate Crisis, the need to protect our few remaining local intact forests, is more stronger than ever. We need them, for our health and wellness, and they are disappearing. If you are able, please support this important cause and take a few moments to forward this letter to others who understand its importance. The petition and funding pages are accessible through the "Learn More" button.

Completed
One-Time Action

Electricity

Learn More About Geothermal Energy

Geothermal Power

I will spend at least 60 minutes learning more about the energy generation potential of geothermal energy and consider investing in this technology.

Completed
One-Time Action

Coastal, Ocean, and Engineered Sinks

Advocate for Wetland Protection

Coastal Wetland Protection

I will write 1 letter(s) or email(s) per day to a public official or representative to advocate for policies that protect wetlands.

COMPLETED 29
DAILY ACTIONS

Action Track: Climate Resilience

Learn More about Biomass

Biomass Power

I will spend at least 60 minutes learning more about the energy generation potential of biomass.

Completed
One-Time Action

Coastal, Ocean, and Engineered Sinks

Learn about Biochar

Biochar Production

I will spend 90 minute(s) learning about biochar and how it can help sequester carbon.

Completed
One-Time Action

Food, Agriculture, and Land Use

Eat Mindfully

I will eat all of my meals without distractions, e.g., phone, computer, TV, or newspaper.

COMPLETED 30
DAILY ACTIONS

Land Sinks

Learn More about Silvopasture

Silvopasture

I will spend at least 60 minutes watching videos and/or reading about the environmental benefits of silvopasture.

Completed
One-Time Action

Land Sinks

Research Peatlands

Peatland Protection and Rewetting

I will spend 120 minutes researching the environmental benefits of peatlands and what is being done around the world to conserve and restore them.

Completed
One-Time Action

Land Sinks

Explore My Area

Sometimes protecting nature requires feeling connected to nature. I will invest 120 minutes in exploring and appreciating a natural area in my region, whether a forest, wetland, coastal area, or somewhere else.

Completed
One-Time Action

Industry

Recycle Everything I Can

Recycling

Contamination prevents what is recyclable from being recycled. I will research and recycle all materials that are accepted by local haulers or drop stations in my community, making sure to not contaminate recyclables with non-recyclables.

COMPLETED 30
DAILY ACTIONS

Industry

Research Cement Alternatives

Alternative Cement

I will spend at least 60 minutes researching cement alternatives that reduce the carbon footprint of concrete.

Completed
One-Time Action

Food, Agriculture, and Land Use

Mulch the Base of Trees and Plants

Farm Irrigation Efficiency

I will prevent water runoff and increase absorbency by mulching the base of trees and plants in my yard.

Completed
One-Time Action

Food, Agriculture, and Land Use

Reduce Animal Products

Plant-Rich Diets

I will enjoy 2 meatless or vegan meal(s) each day of the challenge.

COMPLETED 28
DAILY ACTIONS

Electricity

Watch a Video about Methane Digesters

Methane Digesters

I will watch a video about methane digesters (also commonly known as anaerobic digesters).

Completed
One-Time Action

Electricity

Calculate My Carbon Footprint

All Drawdown Solutions

I will calculate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with my household and consider how different lifestyle choices could reduce my negative impact on the environment.

Completed
One-Time Action

Feed

  • Reflection Question
    Coastal, Ocean, and Engineered Sinks Advocate for Wetland Protection
    Why is it important to protect wetlands?

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/30/2021 8:59 PM
    Protecting wetland is critically important for many reasons.
                 Firstly, wetlands are one of the most diverse and rich ecosystem on the planet. Due to their dual terrestrial and aquatic nature, they host and support diverse biological communities. These ecosystems act as hubs of life and species diversity. As a result, wetlands posses the third highest average net primary production of all ecosystems (both terrestrial and aquatic) on the planet. By this, what I mean is that these ecosystem produce the third most primary biomass (organic compounds and living plant material) in grams over a surface of one m2 per year. They are only beaten by coral reefs and tropical rainforests. They are then followed by tropical seasonal rainforests in terms of  primary productivity. Consequently, wetlands are critical for ecosystem health, specie preservation, biodiversity, research and even climate change mitigation.
                Indeed, as wetlands are highly productive, they consequently absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide over time and they can store it for extend periods of time or even indefinitely if the conditions. This happens if peat forms. Peat is a type of soil that is very rich and dense in organic matter as it is primarily made of dead, dying and partially decomposed organic matter than accumulates in layers over time and fails to decay due to the anaerobic and water-logged conditions of wetlands. This accumulation of layer of organic matter that does not decompose and proceeds to accumulate and get buried locks up all the carbon dioxide that was taken up by the organic material forming the peat and keeps in trapped in the soil. Consequently, wetlands both play a major role in ecosystem strength and diversity and in climate change resilience.
                Next, wetlands  have many other functions in terms of environmental resilience. Indeed, due to their high biological activity, wetland also boast a incredibly diverse and rich microbiological community. These microbiological communities enable wetland to act like filters for pollutants. As water form waterways and surrounding watersheds flow into the wetlands, they bring with them all the pollutants that they picked up along the way. Once in the wetlands, these pollutants are absorbed, treated and transformed, purifying the water and protecting the aquatic ecosystem downstream form these pollutants. As such, wetlands are essential to keep our bodies of water clean.
                Furthermore, wetlands plays fey roles in flood prevention. Through the same water holding properties these ecosystem rely upon to filter water, they simultaneously act like giant sponges that can absorb excess water form snowmelt in spring or torrential downpour, preventing both upstream and downstream flooding. They ecosystem also act like buffers that slow down the flow of water in watersheds preventing wide scale erosion of river banks. By absorbing the water and blocking the flow in waterways into large basins of mixed terrestrial and aquatic structure, they act as reservoir that can release water over longer period of time, stabilizing the levels of connected waterways and reducing the extremes. Moreover, coastline wetlands such as mangrove forest and bayou wetlands play key role in shoreline erosion protection.
                In addition, wetlands have immense scientific value. Indeed, wetland boast an impressive diversity of life, they posses many unique biochemical properties and they are truly unique environments. They can also tell us much about the past as the peat layer can be studied in ways that are very similar to the study of ice core, allowing us to look into the past. In addition, wetlands have helped us design better technology and further our knowledge of water management, filtration, pollution treatment, agriculture, biology, microbiology and even infrastructure. These ecosystem can still teach us a lot more.
                Lastly, one must also appreciate the beauty of these environments and ecosystems, which are truly unique and beautiful. We should all thrive as a specie to protect the beauty of our planet.
                Overall, it is important to realise wetlands accomplish all of these functions even though they represent a tiny portion of the surface area of the planet, that being about 0.4%. Yet these ecosystems are the third most productive, they offer some of the environmental benefits in terms of climate change mitigation and environmental health and resilience and they offer great opportunities for scientific knowledge. Consequently, it is essential for us to protect these precious ecosystem as they are few in numbers and surface area and while our countries boasts and impressive amount of them, we must not wait until they are all disappearing to protect them. We need to act both personally and politically to protect these beautiful ecosystem while they are still plentiful and healthy. After all, it is better to prevent than to repair.
  • Reflection Question
    Transportation Muscle Power on Earth Day
    Did you have any obstacles getting to and from campus with your "muscle transportation" of choice?

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/30/2021 1:40 PM
    I live 30km from the college, so I could not get there by muscle power as it would take way too long (1 hour minimum most by bike). As such, I have not done this challenge. However, I think it is mostly fair to consider the challenge as completed retroactively for the l carpooling I did for the last 3 years at the college. Furthermore, due to covid, everyone reduced their travelling as online courses reduced the amount of days that we had to go to the college. So while I have not gotten to college by muscle power, I have reduced my driving footprint this semester by necessity and did my best in the past to limit emission by doing carpooling with another student. I hope this counts. I would have tried to do the muscle transportation, but I would have had to leave home super early to reach the college to for paramedic practice (considering a 1h to 1h30 travel time, I would have had to leave by 0500 form home).

    • Melissa Tomecz's avatar
      Melissa Tomecz 4/30/2021 3:36 PM
      I had the same problem---it would have taken me an hour by bike; 3 by walking!  Also, I looked at the route that was suggested and at the moment, there is construction happening on part of the route, so it could have been considered hazardous.
  • Reflection Question
    Food, Agriculture, and Land Use Mulch the Base of Trees and Plants
    Name some of the human activities impacting the health of water systems, both locally (your watershed) and globally (freshwater and oceans). What can you do to improve the health of water systems?

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/30/2021 1:18 PM
    There are many different human activity that hurt water ecosystems. Some of these damages are local, some are global.
    On a local level, damages often arise from runoff water. For instance, agriculture runoff is often saturated with fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides which can lead to eutrophication and pollution of waterways. Similarly, residential runoff with residential herbicides and pesticides can pollutes waterways. Another major source of local water pollution is street runoff, which can carry large amounts of salts, chemicals, heavy metals and other substances that accumulate in the roads. These fall in pluvial sewers which empty out in waterbodies, or runoff into the soil and waterways. Littering and poor disposal of garbage waste can also pollute bodies of water ecosystems as often people throw their trash out with no care. Some other sources of local water pollution are development and industrial activity and sewage waste disposal. Lastly, water related activities such as fishing resource exploitation and transportation also effect watershed health.
    On an global level, water pollution comes in various forms too. One of the main ones is plastic pollution and garbage disposal. Another critical source of water ecosystem damage is overfishing. Other resource industries at sea such as oil drilling also have the potential to cause significant damage. Naval transportation also has the potential to affect ecosystem by disturbing the environment and by making noise. Lastly, the same type of local damage happens all around the worlds.
    Consequently, protecting our water ecosystems is quite important. To do so, one can do things such as not using chemicals on their lawn, reduce their use of single use plastic that ends up in the recycling or trash, volunteer to clean up water fronts and support industries that limit or treat their waste before releasing in the watersheds. At the international level, smarter consumptions can help the limit pollution of water ecosystems that occurs.
  • Reflection Question
    Land Sinks Research Peatlands
    Much of Indonesia's peatlands have been drained so they could be replaced with palm oil or pulp and paper plantations. How can you make choices that help to protect peatlands, even if you live far away from one?

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/29/2021 6:36 PM
    A way to help protect peatlands indirectly is to avoid products, goods and services that cause damage to these ecosystems in their production or functioning. Furthermore, avoiding investments in companies and products that do damage is another way to limit damage. After all, in the realm of business and economy, money speaks louder than words. I can also advocate and promote the protection of these ecosystems to government officials and at local level.
  • Reflection Question
    Land Sinks Explore My Area
    How can spending more time outdoors enhance your sense of place -- your deep knowledge of and appreciation for your surroundings?

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/29/2021 6:33 PM
    By spending more time outdoors, you disconnect form the neck-brake pace of modern life and the constant torrent of bad news. This allows one to relax and appreciate life, their surrounding and what they have. Furthermore, spending more time outside exploring your regions expands your knowledge of your region and makes it feels more rooted and real. It also satisfies that pioneering spirit of the human specie that is often unfulfilled in today's world. 
  • Reflection Question
    Action Track: Accelerating Solutions Save Rigaud Mountain
    After signing a local petition, how does it make you feel?

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/28/2021 6:28 PM
    Per say, signing the petition didn't make me feel significantly different. However, I was quite surprised and annoyed a the discovery of the situation and I was more than happy to sign to push against point and pretty stupid development. I was also motivated enough to take the time to share the petition a bit.
  • Reflection Question
    Electricity Learn More About Geothermal Energy
    Geothermal energy is reliable, abundant, and efficient. Project Drawdown states that public investment will play a crucial role in its expansion. In what ways (i.e. with money, time, advocacy) can you invest in geothermal energy?

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/28/2021 6:25 PM
    The ways I could invest in geothermal energy are as follows: invest money in geothermal energy companies and technology, get geothermal heating installed in my own house when/if I get one, write to government official to advocate ad push for investment in R&D and development of the geothermal energy technology.
  • Reflection Question
    Industry Research Cement Alternatives
    Concrete is a good example of a material that most of us encounter every day, but its carbon footprint may not be obvious. What other everyday materials might have a large carbon footprint? How can you find out more?

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/05/2021 7:42 PM
    Another material that could have a large carbon footprint is plastic. Considering it is made from oil and its derivatives, it would not be surprising if plastic production produced a significant about of green house gases.
    Some research on the internet of the chemical processes of producing plastics would give me the answer on the subject. It seems likely that the heating processes of plastics making would produce carbon dioxide (directly or indirectly). However, it is also possible it doesn't as the molecular structure of plastic likely conserves most of the carbon from the original material.
    Another material that might be producing lots of carbon dioxide is glass. At the minimum, the heating process of glass making likely generates carbon dioxide indirectly through it's electricity source. Once against, internet searches and research on production process would give the answer.
  • Reflection Question
    Action Track: Climate Resilience Learn More about Biomass
    Had you ever heard of biomass technology before you took this challenge? What did you learn that surprised you? Share your new knowledge with your friends!

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/05/2021 12:29 PM
    Before taking this challenge, I already knew what biomass was. However, I did learn new things about it.
    Firstly, I learned that my intuition about the technology was correct. It turns out that biomass is only a partial solution to the problem of sustainable energy production. I had always found that the idea of producing energy my burning organic matter or derived biogas made little sense when we are trying to decease carbon emissions. Turns out that this is indeed partially true. Biomass is technically not carbon neutral at its core and requires the planting of more trees than is cut to reach 'carbon neutrality' if we use wood base biomass. However, this is also partly inaccurate as the the chopping of already fully grown forest is not balanced out by new planting for decades as the saplings absorb much less carbon initially as their fully grown counterparts. Some research as shown that the overall tree biomass has increased due to the expansion of plantation forest for the lumber and growing biomass industry, but there have also been cases of logging companies doing logging or clear cutting to produce wood pellets.
    Consequently, the best use of biomass would be to use already existing organic waste from commercial and residential sources to produce biogas from methane digesters to to biomass. Otherwise, from wood sources, only wood scrap should be used to make wood pellets. Luckily, both these approaches are already used and are the goal, both has mentioned above, many concerns have been raised about the increase in logging and questionable restoring of these forests by tree plantation for the purpose of feeding the biomass industry.
    The burning of biomass also does not solve the issues of pollution associated with the burning of organic fuel sources that have plagued many nations and cities, causing smog and serious health issues. Another issue is that tree plantation are often much more vulnerable to disease, parasites and collapse that native forest due to their monoculture design. Another issue is that the use of organic forest scrap the produce wood pellets causes a significant decrease in carbon content and storage of the forest soil, up until it reaches a new equilibrium. This will likely have impact on forest and plant growth as the removal of organic scrap results in the loss of organic nutrient that would result form it during natural decomposition. In addition, the carbon that would get stored form that natural composting is instead released directly into the atmosphere vey quickly.
    As a whole the biomass technology is a dangerous game of balance. On one hand, it has the potential to recue carbon release in the atmosphere by replacing coal, oil and natural gas reliance, therefore keeping these already existing reserves of carbon in the ground. On the other hand, it has the potential to accelerate deforestation, destroy ecosystem through monoculture and release more carbon into the atmosphere than it captures through replanting. It also risks boosting carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere in the short term while newly planted forest start growing. Indeed, the release of carbon from biomass is much faster than the recapture from planting and growth unless it is done and looked at on a massive scale. As a result, research has found that the biomass industry and technology requires direct, clear and relatively strict regulation to ensure that it approaches (research has found that biomass never truly reaches carbon neutrality and takes 20 years to reach between 49-82% carbon neutral and 100 years to reach 75-88% carbon neutral) carbon neutral. The regulation must ensure that only wood and organic scarps and otherwise unusable lumber can be used to make biomass, that companies replant equal or greater amount of trees than they chop (greater amount is actually required to even approach carbon neutrality), that the logging land is managed sustainably and carefully and that valuable/vulnerable/important ecosystem and forest cannot be exploited for logging.
    Furthermore, ideally, the biomass production waste such as ash should be collected and used to fertilize the lands used to produce the lumber. It could be possible to establish mostly closed loop system where organic waste is turned to biogas, lumber scarp are turned to wood pellets and some wood could be turned to charcoal. The biogas, wood pellet and charcoal production process would drive the biomass electricity production. The resulting organic digest of the biogas production, charcoal and ash from the biomass production could then be combined to make a compost rich biochar that can be used to fertilize the forest plot used to feed the biomass production. This system could be further expanded with extra land used for agriculture (ideally in a format such as agrisilviculture, agrosilvopastoral system or agropastoral system) as the wastes from the field and animals could be used to further fertilize the different components of the system and could be also fertilize from the biomass waste.
    In short, biomass as potential, but it is a tricky balancing game.
  • Reflection Question
    Land Sinks Learn More about Silvopasture
    Had you heard of the term "silvopasture" before now? After learning more about it, what do you think is the biggest advantage of silvopasture?

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/04/2021 3:03 PM
    I had not heard of silvopasture before now.
    After learning more about it, I see many advantages to the system.
    Firstly, for the environment, these system offer many benefits by creating semi-natural ecosystems that can support varied biodiversity in terms of trees, ground plants, birds, insects and animals. Obviously, these land are managed so as to be productive and therefore limit the presence of problematic animals and insects, but these system are far more sustainable , resilient and healthy than monocultures. Another benefit of these types of system is that they can likely act as carbon sink. Indeed, the trees and grasses will likely store significant amounts of carbon and if combined with other technologies such as biochar, they could store greater amount of carbon. For instance, the brush, woody waste, superfluous trees and other unwanted organic material could be transformed into biochar, mixed with the livestock manure and spread on the land, boosting the production of the forage and trees while maximizing the resources of the plots. Obviously, the extent of carbon storage will depend on the type of livestock to the tree crop used (i.e. lumber or orchard crop). Another benefit of silvopasture is that the combined ecosystem is much more resilient against environmental extremes in weather. The trees help maintain good temperatures and aboard or retain water. This helps the livestock and reduces pollution.
    Secondly, for farmers, silvopasture offers multiple unique benefits. Indeed, silvopasture firstly create resilience and diversity in their source of income. In traditional crop or livestock farming, all of the farmer's assets are placed within one or a few resources, making his source of income particularly vulnerable to unforeseen events such as droughts, pests or external pressures (such as the propane shortage of last year that caused farmers to lose much of their grain harvest as they could not run their drying furnaces). The multi-culture of tree crop with livestock gives greater financial security to farmers in those cases. Another benefit of the silvopasture is that each element of the system boost the other if balanced correctly. Trees provide better environment for livestock which increases animal wellbeing and therefore output and the livestock keeps the land fertilized and reduces competition from weeds. These combined benefits consequently reduce the farmers cost as less feed, pesticides, herbicides and other products are required to maintain his land. The system of silvopasture is also very beneficial form the perspective that it maximizes the productivity of the farmer's land by combining multiple resources on the same plot. Indeed, in pure pasture raising, animals are still rotate between multiple plot of land, leaving the others as unproductive land while they are recovering form the grazing and growing new forage. However, in silvopasture, the land still ahs its tree crop that produces while recovering form the grazing. 
    However, silvopasture does often requires significant upfront investment, takes time to turn its full production capacity, and requires significant management, to make it functional and profitable. The benefits and production capacity of these silvopasture make the investment worthwhile however. In fact, the land could even be pushed further with systems such as agrosilvopasture, where crops are added into the mix. In general, silvopasture offers a unique opportunity for the agricultural sector to become much more sustainable and environmentally viable while still producing plentiful resources.