A Winnipegger has taken vows and tied the knot.
The marriage may not be quite what you’d expect, though — in fact, you may find her partner to be a little “wooden.”
To show her dedication to the environment, Kristen Andrews became a “tree bride,” and she hopes to encourage others to be more conscious about their own carbon footprint.
“I hear a lot of environmental anxiety and I just thought, what is something we can think of that could link people together, let them feel that they are not alone in their concern about the environment and give them an action to do?” Andrews said Thursday in an interview with CBC Radio’s Up To Speed.
Andrews, who owns Ragpickers Anti-Fashion Emporium, wanted to do something to promote environmentalism during the United Nations’ COP26 summit on climate change in Scotland earlier this month, and launched the idea of a campaign called Tree Bride on social media.
“The call really went out to someone who felt so motivated about the environment and about their want to protect and to be in relationship with the land, that they’d be willing to take vows about the land,” she said.
Andrews has a plant-based diet, doesn’t own her own vehicle and lives in social housing that is co-op based in an effort to reduce her own carbon footprint.
“Part of my vows were to follow my heart and be more vocal about the way that I live my life in trying to be in the best balance with the environment that I can,” she said.
She also vowed to “really listen to the land and to the Indigenous and the allies that are working with land-based cultures for what we can do to be regenerative with the land.”
She said the Manitoba Progressive Conservative government’s efforts to renew a 20-year logging lease in Duck Mountain Provincial Park last summer worried her.
She has friends in the Duck Mountain area, including fourth-generation grain farmer Anastasia Fyk, who share similar concerns about the environment and are looking for ways to mitigate climate change.
Fyk was one of seven Canadian farmers invited to the COP26 summit last month.
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Although Andrews’s Tree Bride movement launched Nov. 1, the history of people protecting trees dates back at least as far as 17th-century India, where villages of men and women would surround giant trees to save them from being stripped for wood.
The social media campaign started slow, says Andrews, but it has grown and connected people from across the world.
“It’s a wonderful feeling. I had no idea what would come about with this and I’m of an age where I’m not super savvy with social media.”
But she thought the Tree Bride campaign might “be a way that we can all see how we are related, and see the connections.”
“The time is now to step up and be vocal about a commitment to the environment.”
‘Tree babies’ coming
The next step for Andrews and her movement is to have “tree babies,” by planting saplings in the spring to help replace Winnipeg’s shrunken tree canopy.
In September 2019, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman challenged residents to plant one million trees over the following 20 years.
“Trees play a crucial part to the fabric of the environment, so … it just has come up as an organic idea to follow through, with people taking their vows that we are going to vow to plant trees in the spring,” Andrews said.
She’s looking forward to seeing what happens next.
“I know what’s going to happen when we get hands in the dirt,” Andrews said. “I know what’s going to happen when we get out there and actually start to share the labour and the work together.”
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