Focusing on four areas — eat, grow, transform, share — Canadians are being urged to do more than just talk about improving the environment.
Ottawa (22 April 2014) — There is a lot of talk about protecting the environment, especially on April 22, Earth Day. This year, Earth Day Canada's campaign has put the emphasis on moving more and more people toward action!
Focusing on four areas — eat, grow, transform, share — Canadians are being urged to do more than just talk.
Eat: Make seasonal, sustainable food choices
Where we buy our food, what we eat and how we handle food waste can have a huge impact on the environment, economy and society. The global food system is under stress to meet rising demands, and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) projects that the global food demand will increase 70 per cent by 2050. Experts predict that we will have to make significant changes in order to feed the projected population of nine billion.
A great way to start making more sustainable food choices is by making changes to our diet and eating habits. Shifting demand to more sustainable and local options encourages practices that are ethical and take into consideration environmental consequences.
Many of us may take access to sustainable, local food for granted. More and more Canadians are having difficulty finding sources of quality, affordable foods. Downtown grocery stores are being replaced by big box stores in the suburbs. Local farmers are having a harder time bringing their crops to markets. These conditions create food deserts. Often these are some of the poorest neighbourhoods within our towns and cities.
Grow: Plants improve air, ecosystems and quality of life
Plants play a vital role in our daily lives. Found at the base of the food chain, they provide both direct and indirect sources of food (by providing food for other animals that we eat). Plants help to purify and regulate the water cycle, and store large amounts of carbon dioxide. They are also valuable for other reasons, serving as raw materials for industrial products (e.g. wood for furniture, cotton for clothing, essential oils for cosmetics), shade and temperature regulators, wildlife habitat, and features of our landscape.
As more people crowd into urban centres, the ability to plant your own food diminshes. But there are ways to ensure your community maintains its clean air and healthy ecosystems. Community gardens, tree planting, container planting and reusing grey water are just some ways we can all make our neighbourhoods healthier.
Transform: Turn products at the end of their life-cycles into something new and useful
According to Earth Day Canada, in 2008, Canadian households produced nearly 13 million tonnes of waste. Of this amount, they diverted 4.4 million tonnes of waste from the landfill by recycling, reusing or composting. While diversion rates have increased over the years, there are still significant opportunities to divert even more and further reduce waste generation.
Most people are familiar with the 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. It’s great that the 3 Rs are becoming a daily habit! Recently, three other Rs have become more popular: Refuse, Repair and Repurpose. Refusing to purchase things you don’t need or use should always be your first step in reducing waste, and repairing broken objects instead of replacing them with new ones is another great choice.
Repurposing, or upcycling, uses less resources and avoids adding more waste to our landfills. The added bonus of building something new out of something old is that it stimulates creativity, too!
Share: Put your knowledge to good use by sharing it with others
By sharing what you know, you are teaching other people to follow in your steps. Sharing techniques, skills and ideas are important ways for our communities and the world to move forward responsibly. The more people there are who are inspired and informed about our environmental challenges, the more power we have to overcome them.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE