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Thinking outside of the box is fun. It’s challenging, creative, sometimes comical and – surprisingly often – useful. It can help you understand things in unexpected ways. And out-of-the-box thinking can lead to innovative approaches to environmental opportunities and creative solutions to persistent problems. There are scads of guides and lists online to help you turn around your own thinking processes. Here’s a quick list adapted from my favourite pointers at

1. Write a poem. Haiku is a favourite because you must distill your idea into so few syllables.

2. Draw a picture. This more deeply exercises the right side of your brain, which was just toned by writing the poem.

3. Work backward from a desirable objective. “Backcasting” is the term used by the sustainability people.

4. Learn about an unfamiliar religion. Find out how others understand relationships between the divine and each other.

5. Study an industry or discipline other than your own.

6. Read a novel in an unfamiliar genre.

7. Turn the object of your concern upside down, either physically or by reimagining it.

8. Ask a child for advice – or at the very least, reformulate your problem so a child could understand it.

9. Take a shower. Some say there is a psychic link between showering and creativity.

10. Plug into your community in new ways – walk a dog for the pound or pay a homeless person for a story.

This is the third time A\J has produced an out-of-the-box issue. We do it to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and into areas where we are challenging our ideas about anything connected to environment. And because our definition of environment includes all aspects of ecological and social justice, pretty much everything is connected.

Each time we have released a call for proposals for an out-of-the-box issue, we have received an embarrassment of riches in return. We ask contributors to tell us how a particular subject is connected to environment in a way we wouldn’t have expected. We are looking for surprise and substance – something that unsticks the mind and allows us to move in greener ways. We have yet to be disappointed. What you will find in these pages is an array of articles that will make you think about a range of topics differently. But these articles inspire us in so many more ways.

Adam Lewis’ article, “Living on Stolen Land”, made me both nervous and excited. I don’t think I’ll be alone in saying that Lewis tackles one of the most important and uncomfortable topics that Canadians face once they understand that the land upon which their home sits once belonged to the First Peoples of Canada – and in many cases, still does. Like Lewis, we at A\J live on the Haldimand Tract, territory granted by treaty to the Haudenosaunee people of Six Nations in 1784. Several cities, including Kitchener-Waterloo, lie within it. You can bet that I have been chewing on how this can possibly be reconciled, and Lewis offers sage food for thought. I expect that this article will influence A\J’s future approaches and policies.

There is a good deal inside this issue of A\J that we hope will surprise and inspire. We’ll be very thankful if you send us your thoughts about any of these articles, especially the one(s) that have taken you off your own beaten path. Your options for submitting feedback are: email; comment at the end of stories that are published online; send us a note via the webform; or join us for lunch in downtown Kitchener’s beautiful Victoria Park – historic wintering ground for Indigenous people, and only a block away from A\J headquarters.

See the original list at

Find the first two Out of the Box issues at and

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