John Hastings racing a kayak.
John Hastings.

I must admit I was a bit nervous. This was my first experience as a master of ceremonies for the Canadian Museum of Nature’s first national webcast with a world-class athlete. John Hastings, white-water kayaker from the national kayak team, was invited to inspire youth to take action on environmental issues. John expects to represent Canada at the 2012 Olympics. The lecture was part of the Leadership in Environmental Action Forum. The participants were about a hundred high school students from the Ottawa Valley.

So, what do an Olympian and an environmental leader have in common? Lots! The very first thing that caught my attention is that all leaders share common character traits and attitudes: be passionate, keep your focus, persevere, get support, and adapt your strategy and you will achieve your goal.

Whether you train to be the best at a particular sport or strive to protect freshwater environments, never lose sight of what you want to attain and go for it!

Hey, maybe I could be an environmental leader?

I think I’ll first start with looking at how I use water in my household. Being a trained biologist and educator at the Canadian Museum of Nature, I like to think that I do my share to conserve water: I take short showers. I’ve installed special faucets to reduce the flow of water. And I’ve even planted drought-tolerant plants to reduce the need for watering. Great, right?

These are small but meaningful actions in trying to conserve water. But we also use water in many not-so-obvious ways, as John pointed out in his presentation.

A disposable coffee cup and illustrations showing the quantity of water used in its production.
John Hastings used this illustration to show how much water it takes to produce a cup of coffee.

Did you know that 143 litres of water is needed to produce one cup of coffee? Yes, you read that right. More than 140 L are needed to grow and roast the beans, manufacture the cup, produce the sugar, keep cows and produce dairy, etc. I must confess that my daily fix is quite water-intensive… I’ll definitely keep that in mind and maybe I’ll switch to tea once in a while.

As an elite athlete, John emphasized that small changes go a long way to helping you reach your goal—thanks to micro but consistent changes to his training strategy, he won the National Championships in 2008.

So, I’m inspired to be an environmental leader in water conservation. I’ll keep up with my small household changes, keep myself informed, spread the word and start appreciating tea more and more. A goal is always within our reach; we just have to start somewhere and keep at it. Where will you lead the way?

Watch a recording of John Hastings’ lecture.