Skip to main content
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
  • 843 Total

Participant Impact

  • up to
    1
    documentaries
    watched
  • up to
    275
    minutes
    spent learning
  • up to
    18
    meatless or vegan meals
    consumed
  • up to
    1,080
    minutes
    being mindful
  • up to
    0
    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.

Uncompleted
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 16
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.

Uncompleted
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.

Uncompleted
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 17
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 18
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.

Uncompleted
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.

Uncompleted
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 18
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.

Uncompleted
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 16
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
    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.
  • Reflection Question
    Electricity Watch a Video about Methane Digesters
    What does your vision of a sustainable community look like? What would need to be changed in order for such vision to become reality?

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/03/2021 8:55 PM
    Ideally, a sustainable community would be one capable of self-providing most of its electricity needs, a significant portion of its food needs and being close or at net neutral in waste and resource use. In addition, such a community would need to be physically design to optimize and facilitates walking, cycling and other muscle powered forms of transportation by reducing distances. This density approach would also help protect surrounding wild environments. To accomplish such goals, much would need to change.
    Firstly, for electricity, many options are available to create self sustaining grids. Power sources such as wind and solar can provide significant portions of the grid while sources such as geothermal, and biomass can palliate in times of low production with their stability. Biomass can also be used to dispose of waste, which will be explored later. For global grids support, similar sources can be sued, as well as larger scale sources such as hydroelectric and nuclear. The general idea is to try to reduce or eliminate if possible the need and reliance on fossil fuels for electricity production. Indeed, it is not only environmentally harmful, but it is also a waste of these resources' energy density which should be reserved for needs the require high energetic density that can be transported and stored.
    For food production, individual and community gardens are the obvious solution. Furthermore, these can rely on a variety of technique, approaches and methods to maximize their output. Things such as mixed crop systems that pairs various plants that support each other and protects each other against pests is one such type of option that can lead to very high yields from small plots of land. Furthermore, the use of compost, biochar, organic digest for biomass and other sustainable and community produced fertilizers and additive would help sustain the productions of those gardens. These resources can all be produced form the waste organic waste of the community and helps to offset carbon releases form other activities.
    Next is the topic of waste management. With much of the resources produced in the communities, a transformation in consumption habits and modification to packaging and suppling of other goods, it would likely be possible to keep waste produced relatively low. What would be produced could either be recycled, reused or transformed. Organic waste offer a multitude of interesting options such as compost, biochar, biomass, etc. Non-organic waste can be transformed, reused and recycled the traditionally way I suppose (assuming that the recycling system is actually functional in the utopia and doesn't fail at its job most of the time).
    Next, in terms of community design, core density is key to enabling muscle powered transportation, public transport and commuting. As much as I am not much of a fan of city life, such design would be necessary, though it could be approached in a much better way that it has in the past by building along circular type design that incorporate nature actively within the design. Such a type of design helps maintain any destination within a manageable distance while reducing pollution, noise and extreme temperature event due to the presence of plants. It also makes it much more enjoyable to live in than a sea of concrete and steel. These designs can also be surrounded by green belts that contain sprawl and protect natural environment around and outside. Networks of these types of community interconnected through a robust system of public transportation to centralized economic or industrial core would enable communities to met any other needs that cannot be met internally while simultaneously maintaining political, cultural and economical cohesion among these semi-independent communities. Supplemental agricultural need could be met in the surrounding spaces. Education needs could be met either through more localized systems of school within medium size intermediate economic centers or though the central core. Surrounding the whole system could be a greater green belt.
    However, all these ideas are just conceptualization. Such a grand system would require immense resources and coordination to pull-off.
  • Reflection Question
    Coastal, Ocean, and Engineered Sinks Learn about Biochar
    Can biochar provide additional benefits besides sequestering carbon?

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/03/2021 3:07 PM
    In addition to sequestering carbon, biochar offers many powerful benefits for soil health and plant growth. 
    Indeed, the molecular structure of charcoal (what biochar is) is a very porous sponge like structure of dense carbon. This porous structure enables the biochar to retain large amount of water, keeping soils better hydrated which favours plant growth. Furthermore, the porous structure creates massive surface area that enables microbiological communities to trive and boosting plant growth as a result.
    In addition, biochar is slightly electrically charged, which allows it to trap cations essential for plant growth and therefore acting as a booster for cation exchange capacity for the soil and preventing leaching form water (one of the key components of soil health). This cation exchange capacity also helps maintain soil pH into a slightly alkaline ranges, further enhanced by the biochar itself, which is beneficial for many plants. Indeed, the western plains of Canada have slightly alkaline soil as a result of the minerals deposited by glacial retreat at the end of the last ice age, which has made these soils some of the most fertile.
    Lastly, biochar acts as a medium size aggregate in the soil helping to maintain its structure and preventing compacting of the soil, thus enabling better root growth.
    All in all, these different properties of biochar makes it not only a carbon storing substance, but also a significant boon for agricultural production and general plant growth.
  • Reflection Question
    Food, Agriculture, and Land Use Keep Track of Wasted Food
    An average American throws out about 240 lbs of food per year. The average family of four spends $1,500 a year on food that they throw out. How would you rather use this money?

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/02/2021 5:46 PM
    There is a lot of better ways of using $1500 than on wasted food. Investing it is one option. Saving it for major spending is another. Using it for my education or similar acute necessity is also another choice. Luckily, at home, we don't usually throw a lot of food out. We basically ignore expiration dates and we try our best to not forget the veggies in the fridge, though it happens at times. Some time is turns out find(i.e. they dry up and wrinkle) while other times it ends up in the compost (rotting).

  • Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/02/2021 12:45 PM
    Heads up to everyone so that no confusion arises, for the "write letters to an official to advocate for wetland protection", when I will check it as done on a day, it is NOT because I necessarily sent a letter or e-mail, it is because I worked on it during the day. It is wholly unrealistic to send one letter or e-mail per day and it is quite excessive. It takes time to produce a good quality letter to advocate for political action, so I plan to only send a handful throughout the month. Considering all the other actions that ask to contact an official to advocate for something are one time actions, I think it is fair to consider that one as the same.

    • Melissa Tomecz's avatar
      Melissa Tomecz 4/02/2021 4:59 PM
      I figured that WAS a very ambitious action.  This way, it makes more sense!

    • Excellent points, Matthieu! You can also enter "0" as the unit and it will still count as completing the action. This may be helpful for tasks like this one where the research is intensive.
  • Reflection Question
    Food, Agriculture, and Land Use Reduce Animal Products
    Why do people in richer countries eat more meat than people in other places? How does eating more meat affect our bodies, our planet, and other people?

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/02/2021 12:37 PM
    People in richer countries eat more meat due to a combination of factors. 
    Firstly is our wealth. Meat is quite expensive all things considered compared to plant products, so it is much easier to afford meat in richer countries than poorer countries as the average buying power in rich countries is much higher than in poorer countries. Secondly, the food distribution network and industrial production creates a much greater abundance of meat products in rich countries compared to poorer countries, driving prices down and making these products widely available. 
    Third, there are cultural aspects to meat consumption. Much of the rich world is of Nordic western European origin, whom culturally have relied historically on animal products a lot more than other regions for nutrition, especially during winter. This reliance on animals eventually developed into a greater consumption of meat for these cultures. 
    On the flip side, large scale meat consumption has many unintended consequences.
    For our health, meat consumption is not innately problematic when done in small to moderate amounts (i.e. as part of a greater more varied diet instead of as the corner stone of it). However, rich nations consume relatively large amounts of meat that is usually produced industrially. These meats usually have higher fat content and when consumed in large amount, often lead to cardiovascular disease and various other health problems.
    Industrial meat production also has many other secondary effects on people. Indeed, the meat industry has for a long time been infamous for its horrid conditions for workers (and it is still likely true to many ways today). The Western world's high consumption and demand of meat has also motivated many developing countries to create their own meat industry for exportation, with various economic, political and environmental impacts (some positive, some negative). Another unintended consequence of industrial meat production, especially in developing nations is the rise of zoonotic disease (animal to human disease spread) that has lead to multiple outbreaks of varying severity in the last two decades.
    Lastly, meat production has very important impacts environmentally. Indeed, meat production, especially industrial production, is incredibly resource intensive in terms of land (for the animals themselves and feed production), food, water, medical supplies, waste management, waste release and other. It has been shown many time that the impacts of meat production are greater than many other industrial sectors. Furthermore, the growth of meat consumption worldwide has lead to massive amounts of deforestation in countries such as Brazil (who is now one of the world's main beef producer). In some places, meat production/animal raising is the only truly viable form of agriculture due to the geographical location of physical condition of the land (rocky highlands are quite poor for agriculture but usually very good for grazing animals such as sheep), but the rise of large scale meat consumption as pushed the western industrial production model worldwide to meet demand, with an ever increasing environmental impact.

    • Melissa Tomecz's avatar
      Melissa Tomecz 4/02/2021 5:03 PM
      Wow!  You almost have a paper ready here in your answer :)  Good job, Matthieu!
  • Reflection Question
    Food, Agriculture, and Land Use Eat Mindfully
    Mindful eating is healthier for us than eating with distractions. How does your eating experience differ when practicing mindfulness?

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/01/2021 6:03 PM
    You can think to yourself in those moments. Obviously, with family present at the table, I interact as is polite.
  • Reflection Question
    Industry Recycle Everything I Can
    How could you incorporate other "R's" -- reduce, reuse, refuse, repair, repurpose, etc. -- into your lifestyle? How does considering implementing these "R's" make you feel?

    Matthieu De Bellefeuille's avatar
    Matthieu De Bellefeuille 4/01/2021 6:02 PM
    Well, on the reduce side, the simplest way is likely to approach it from a financial perspective: buy less, save more. Refuse falls into a similar approach; if you don't need don't get it.  For reuse and repurpose, I try to apply it when logical, though for many things, it is hard to find secondary use. Repair is an obvious go tp as it saves money. In general, many of the other R's depend on what material you are dealing with, so the extent of success varies.