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YOU ASK, WE ANSWER: FIXING YOUR FOOTPRINT
“I am aware of climate change and it scares me! I want to do the best I can right now so I can help create a better future for my daughter. The problem is: I’m lost! Where and how do I start to live a ‘greener’ life?”
– Kathleen B., Toronto, ON.
Climate change has been top of mind lately, with the recent Global Climate Strike, the UN Climate Summit, and the obvious warnings and signs of global warming all around us — including (but certainly not limited to) overheated oceans, unprecedented natural disasters and sharp declines of certain animal populations.
Global warming is real and it’s happening. The facts are there to prove it. If we continue on the current path we’re on, the future looks scary.
That’s where we step in.
Despite all the political drama — and some governments’ inability to adequately address the climate crisis (ahem, America) — it truly is the people who contribute to climate change, and therefore it’s also up the people to help prevent it.
So how can we start to live a “greener” life? We’ve summed up a few steps you can (and should) take to reduce your carbon footprint.
1. FLIP THE SWITCH
As shameful as it is to admit, Canada is the top per-capita energy consumer in the world.
We’re all guilty of leaving on lights unnecessarily. But let’s make a concerted effort to stop. Energy conservation is one of the most critical things humans can do to reduce their carbon footprints. (Not to mention, you’ll notice a big decrease in your energy bills!)
And while you’re at it, change to energy-efficient light bulbs. Even if they “make you look orange,” it’s well worth it.
When we say flip the switch, we aren’t only talking about lights. Unplug computers, TVs, fans, and other devices when you’re not using them.
If you want to go a step further, try to make sure the technology you use regularly is as energy-efficient as possible. Whether it’s a solar-powered speaker, keyboard, or phone charger, any energy-efficient gadgets you incorporate into your routine will make a difference in your energy output.
2. REDUCE, REUSE, RECYLE. EVERYTHING.
Though this one might seem obvious, you’d be surprised how many people fail to recycle. For instance, the U.S. produces way more waste yet recycles far less than other developed countries.
Part of the crisis is that plastics are piling up in developing countries and the oceans, as the U.S. continues to clash with China and other countries that refuse to accept its waste.
But politics aside, people all over the world who have access to recycling neglect to actually do it and there are five main reasons why:
Inconvenience is undoubtedly the top reason why people don’t bother recycling. Many just aren’t willing to put in the extra effort.
Many people argue they don’t have enough space in their homes for a cumbersome recycling bin.
• No incentive
When people aren’t being paid or punished to do something, it’s unlikely they’ll bother doing it. (Excuses, excuses.)
Those who argue the validity of climate change, particularly those in the public eye, persuade certain people that their behaviour will not impact the environment, for better or for worse.
• It’s complicated
Recycling can be confusing. With varying materials like plastic, glass and paper, it can be difficult to decipher which items go where.
But really, those are all just lame excuses.
Here are five reasons why everyone should recycle:
• It saves energy
By recycling, manufacturers can reuse materials rather than starting from scratch, which saves energy, resources and production costs.
• It limits landfills
The more we recycle, the less waste ends up in landfills. And landfills suck. Nuff said.
• It protects wildlife
When we recycle, we limit the need to destroy habitats for animals, plus, recycling paper saves millions of trees.
• There’s an economic upside
Products made from recycled materials require less water, create less pollution and use less energy. And the more people recycle, the greater the demand for recycled goods.
• It combats carbon emissions
Recycling produces less carbon, which lessens the amount of greenhouse gas omissions, thereby preventing further environmental damage. Convinced yet?
3. EAT GREEN
The choices you make about how you feed yourself and your family has a huge impact on not only your own health, but on the health of the planet.
Here are four simple rules when it comes to cut down your culinary carbon footprint:
• Limit meat intake
Try to eat only one meal a day that contains meat. Livestock production makes up 70% of all agricultural land use and creates 18% of greenhouse gases that are detrimental to the environment. Plus, it takes seven kilograms of grain to produce one kilogram of beef — in other words, it takes a significant amount of energy, water, and resources to produce, process and transport meat. So eat less of it.
• Opt for organic
When possible, try to choose organic, local options. It’s not grown with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and it comes from animals that aren’t loaded up with antibiotics or growth hormones. Not only are organic foods typically more nutritious, they’re also grown in healthy soils and on farms that create less pollution, damage to soil and harm to wildlife.
• Lick it clean
While this has never been a problem for us, always remember to eat every morsel of food on your plate. When you waste food, the resources that were used to grow, ship, package and produce it are also wasted.
• Go for growth
Unleash your inner gardener. You can grow delicious fruits, veggies and herbs free of chemicals, wasted resources and guilt from the comfort of your own backyard.
4. RIDE WITH PRIDE
We’ll keep this one short and sweet.
Next time you get into your car, think seriously about alternatives to driving. In Canada, transportation accounts for 24% of pollution.
By reducing your transportation emissions, you will be healthier, wealthier and more environmentally-friendly. (Sounds pretty ideal if you ask us.)
5. CUT THE CLUTTER
Live a minimal lifestyle. Less is more.
If you’re anything like us, you have a minor (OK fine, major) shopping addiction. But environmentalists urge us to consume less. The more we have, the more our carbon footprint expands.
When you do shop, focus on products and brands that support the environment. For instance, Everlane just launched a ReCashmere campaign. The clothing retailer is recycling cashmere sweaters and blending the recycled material with extra-fine merino wool to create brand new, beautiful cashmere swearers.
Other brands like Toms, Patagonia, and even Apple are highly focused on protecting the environment, integrating recycled materials into their products and demonstrating a climate conscience.
Many makeup and skincare companies are also hopping on the environmentally-friendly bandwagon, including RMS, Tata Harper, Ilia and Lush, all of which boast zero waste.
Do your best to shop smart.
6. SPREAD THE WORD
Just talking about climate change is one of the simplest ways you can help make an impact. Start the conversation.
The more awareness is spread, the more people will actively alter their lifestyles to be more eco-friendly. (You can start by sharing this.)
With the federal election fast approaching, make climate policy a priority when deciding who to vote for.
Even though reducing our individual carbon footprints is important, the larger system must be on board as well, as it has the power to produce the most change.
Get politically active, do your research and vote for leaders at all levels of government who present convincing climate change strategies. Ensure the candidate you vote for is committed to reducing harmful carbon emissions, integrating clear plans to reach targets, and transitioning to a clean-energy economy.
Remember: all new routines take dedication and hard work. If you’ve taken the time to read this whole article, you’re already off to a good start.