Skip to content

Tortes and Torts: Eating Green with Anita Nowinka

Robynne Thompson (2L)

 Tortes and Torts. Food and law school. The article I thought I would stop writing in 2L but can’t think of anything else to write about.

 The end of summer, that bittersweet time where I’m actually excited to go back to school but I know two days in I’ll be wishing I was still working for the weekend. In an effort to make the most of my summer experience, I’ve been trying to capitalize on the abundance of summer fruits. In my youth, I spent many a summer day ‘stealing’ summer fruits from my neighbours’ tree branches that encroached into alleyways (yes, I’ve always been this cool).

 Now that I’m an adult, I feel a slight tinge of guilt from taking fruit that isn’t technically mine. Luckily, Edmonton has a solution. A few years ago, the city launched an online map that lists all the fruit trees maintained by the city (check it out at:– you can also just Google it, just avoid the deprecated version). The map has obvious benefits for food security (free fruit!), but also plays a role in reducing all the other environmental costs of harvesting, transporting, packaging, selling, and buying fruits.

 Since launching the map I’ve found a fantastic sour cherry tree that has produced many pies, jams, and liqueurs. My secret Saskatoon berry patch (NOT a euphemism) isn’t on the map but there are plenty of other designated spots to pick Saskatoons. The map also features a variety of chokecherries, apples, pears, plums and crabapples. Perfect for fruit wine, Moina Rose-style.

 In the spirit of celebrating food security and environmental stewardship, I asked the Anita Nowinka – President of the Environmental Law Students’ Association (ELSA) – about some challenges in environmental law and for some tips on how to reduce our environmental impact on law students.

 Although there are a lot of scientific, political, social, and technological challenges intersecting with environmental law, Anita sees the biggest challenge as psychological, “the public and political will to implement [technological solution] is continually lacking. Our biggest challenge is no longer awareness of the issue – it’s acknowledgment and acceptance that this awareness makes it imperative that we change our behaviour. And change is scary, but I hope I can share some ways that can make it seem simple and inexpensive!”

 What can we do as law students? Getting involved with ELSA is a great start – check them out on Facebook. But there are plenty of little things that can make a big impact, like taking public transit. When it comes getting your caffeine fix, “caffeine is basically a necessity for most of us, disposable coffee cups don’t need to be – bring your own reusable mug to school and most places will even give you a discount” (including Steve’s). One of my biggest struggles last year was dealing with the vast amount of paper required for notes and CANs. Anita advises to sell or donate CANs and coursepacks.

 Anita also says that the most sustainable product is the one you don’t buy. I’ll definitely be applying this advice to textbooks. In all seriousness, it’s useful to take stock and “consider whether you don’t already have it in your possession (like stacks of random pens in your junk drawers) or whether you can’t upcycle something to avoid another purchase (like using the mason jar your pasta sauce comes in as a repurposed, trendy salad container).”

 When it comes to food, Anita recommends reducing your environmental impact by cutting back on meat and dairy consumption. And it also benefits your wallet. Using reusable produce and grocery bags, buying fresh rather than packed foods, and bringing your own take-out containers and cutlery also have a huge impact. But, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about making little changes that add up, “any one of these things can make an impact, so don’t ever feel like it’s all or nothing! I once read a quote that captures it best – ‘We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.’”

 So, why not pick some of your own fruit. You’ll just need to bring your own bucket. Sour cherry and Saskatoon berry season might be over, but the pear and plum trees should be ready to harvest in September. If you do partake in some urban harvesting, the city asks that you don’t damage the trees and that you assume all legal responsibility for knowing what you’re picking and eating. As far as my research goes this disclaimer hasn’t been tested in court…yet. And, if anyone has any pull with the city, can you ask them to plant some haskaps?

 In the meantime, I’ll be over here enjoying a sour cream cherry pie waiting for the pears to ripen.