October 2nd, 2017
I’m the first to admit that I’m not the greenest gal in town. I hear about what my friends in Vancouver and Collingwood do to live off the land and cut down on their carbon footprint and I feel a little bit guilty, but also inspired. I must admit that I’ve been resistant to losing what I feel to be my “comforts of life.” I’ve been a bit selfish, really, and allowed myself to believe that our single family can’t make that much of a difference. But I know that is not true. We all need to do our part.
So I started by asking my sister-in-law, a Master in Climate Change from the University of Waterloo, for tips. Like any woman with a passion would, she responded immediately with a nice, long email. She outlines three basic and easy approaches to reduce our individual carbon footprint.
Here’s what she has to share:
Almost everyone can agree that climate change is happening all around them but many are not sure what they can do about it. I tell people that the little things do actually go a long way!
First, use your green box to its fullest potential. If you are not sure what you can put in it, go online and find out – you will be surprised how much household garbage goes into the ‘organic or compost waste’ category diverting it from landfills. A common complaint I get is that it is simply “disgusting” to use those little beige and white containers supplied by the Region. And, well, I agree. So I suggest installing your compostable garbage receptacle under your sink. You can get some bins with lids that open automatically when you open the cupboard door. The grocery stores sell biodegradable plastic bags that easily fit into garbage containers, eliminating the fight with the stiff paper bag types. I have a family of 5 (one still in diapers) plus a dog and I have not once needed to use those extra “garbage tags” since garbage pick-up went bi-weekly. While we are on the subject on waste, I also like to remind people that all plastic bags (soft plastic, not stiff and crunchy like cereal bags) can be recycled with your paper products. This includes all grocery bags, Ziploc bags, saran wrap, etc.
The second thing the average mother can do to help decrease her carbon footprint is to walk more. If you live in an area with high walkability to a grocery store, pharmacy or other shops, put your kids in the stroller or on their bikes and walk to the store if you only need to grab a few things. You not only eliminate the carbon emissions from your car, but you also get exercise and fresh air, which is even more important for little ones.
One last thing, and much more important than some realize, is to shop local. The farmers markets are obviously the easiest for one-stop shopping, but you can increasingly find locally sourced products at locally-owned stores and even the larger grocery stores. This local food movement has a number of cascading benefits: your food is fresher with less added preservatives; you support local farmers, bakers, butchers, etc. thereby supporting more local jobs; and emissions are reduced by not transporting unnecessary foods that can just as easily be grown at home.
Master of Climate Change (MCC)
In an optimal world, I would grow all of my own produce, raise chickens for eggs, a goat for milk and cheese and even go fishing for my own dinner. I’d bike everywhere and hang my clothes to dry. But I’m not there yet. I like Tara’s easy and practical approach to going green. Sadly, I must drive a lot with busy teens, but I am using my green bin as much as possible. With garbage, we used to be a 2-bag a week family and now we are almost down to one bag every 2 weeks. We recycle just about everything! I’ve made it easy for myself with multiple bins in the garage – one for hard plastics and cans, one for paper and cardboard and one for soft plastics that I bag up with the paper at the end of the week (as Tara suggests). My green bin also stays in my garage and I also keep a small bin for paper and cardboard in the bathroom.
If you’re not recycling just about everything in your home, I challenge you to do so by Hallowee’en. It might take a few hours to look over your space, take some measurements, go to Canadian Tire or Home Depot to get the appropriate bins and set up an easy-to-use Recycling Depot in your own home. You have to make it easy to use for it to be effective. The less we put into landfill, the better!
So what does any of this have to do with aging gracefully? I feel that aging gracefully partly means aging selflessly. I’m still a work in progress – often opting for the easiest route in my busy life, but I’m trying to get better….one green box at a time!