Former WWF-Canada Forests and Freshwater Director Tony Iacobelli has gone to great lengths to do his part to reduce his carbon footprint - literally. As a student researcher, he scaled 40-foot TV towers to study the microclimate of forests, and as a car-free commuter, he used to bike 50 kilometres to the WWF-Canada office and back during warmer months. When weather gets in the way of cycling, Tony uses public transit as often as possible.
"My wife and I decided to move to a house closer to the subway line. We moved from Maple to Richmond Hill, and got rid of a car in the process." Getting rid of a car goes a long way to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and biking and walking to the office are great ways to get active and stay healthy.
"Getting rid of the car meant making some lifestyle changes, like getting up a little earlier in winter to catch the bus to the subway," but the benefits far outweigh any inconvenience. "Now I can stop at the local bakery to get something for the kids on our walk home together," says Tony.
In addition to the low-carbon commute, Tony has also reduced his ecological footprint by upgrading the furnace in his house to a high-efficiency model. "We added more insulation in the basement, and picked up some metallic tape at the hardware store, which we used to wrap the air ducts so they won't leak heat." He plans to add more insulation in the attic as well.
Tony's interest in ecology and conservation began as a teen, when he went camping with a friend's family. "That was it. I was hooked after that."
He enrolled in the biogeography program at the University of Toronto, and with only a couple of camping trips under his belt, Tony chose to do summer field work in the James Bay Lowlands. "I spent four months on a delta, walking around in hip waders at all times. When the mosquitoes came out, they covered everything, even our notebooks." It was at this time that Tony first saw a polar bear.
"I was the first to wake up one morning, so I went to the kitchen building, and started making coffee and frying bacon. When I stepped out of the building, there was a polar bear waiting on the other side of our small bear fence." The research station was located in what is now part of Wapusk National Park, where two of the bears featured on WWF-Canada's Polar Bear Tracker website were collared.
Tony switched from working in the Tundra to studying the forests further south. As part of his master's degree in forest microclimatology, Tony regularly climbed into the forest canopy to test the evaporation levels amongst the leaves.
Forests are a crucial part of Earth's climate: not only do they impact weather, and store carbon in their bark and leaves, forests also reduce the stress that climate change is causing to species that would otherwise be on the brink. "As temperatures rise, wildlife will need corridors along which to migrate to adapt to the changes. Leaving connected forests intact is crucial to mitigate the impacts of climate change."
Tony has been sharing his knowledge of and passion for forests with WWF-Canada since 1993. He first joined the team to work on the Endangered Spaces campaign. One of his biggest achievements has been the advancement of Forest Stewardship council (FSC), which is a certification system that helps consumers choose wood and paper products that come from sustainably managed forests.
"One of my main goals is to increase public awareness and understanding of FSC labelling," says Tony. In doing this, Tony is making it easier for all consumers to reduce their ecological footprint.