9 Creative Ways to be More Environmentally Friendly at Home
Author: Stacy Corneau
Climate change is impacting not only our global environment, but our local communities as well. By 2030, winters in the Ottawa Valley will be up to four weeks shorter and the region’s average temperatures will increase by 1.8 C.
Nearly two thirds of people around the globe consider climate change a global emergency. At CPAWS OV, we are seeing the effects of a warmer climate across Ontario and Quebec. Ecological changes, heat waves, rising water levels, and heat-related illnesses in denser parts of our communities are only a few of the devastating impacts of climate change we’ve witnessed over the years. Extreme weather events like devastating floods, severe summer storms and winter ice storms are already impacting our forests and the countless species which depend on them.
Finite natural resources are required to create or sustain many of the things we use in our daily lives. However, there are many sustainable alternatives. The less dependent we are on disposable or environmentally unfriendly products, the less of a need there is for the mines, roads, pipelines, and cutting of old forests for producing them. While there’s a lot that still needs to be done on a policy level to mitigate the effects of climate change, and CPAWS is at the forefront proposing a number of “natural” solutions to climate change, there are steps we can take as individuals on an everyday level to contribute to managing a changing climate and lead a more environmentally friendly life.
We explore nine options below, but we suggest implementing the ones feasible for you based on your lifestyle. Some of these may be quick and easy to implement while others may require baby steps and a more long-term plan.
In the kitchen
According to the federal government, Canadians throw away over three million tonnes of plastic waste each year. This waste winds up in landfills and pollutes our rivers and lakes, endangering turtles, fish, and other species calling those waters home. Ditching disposable plastics and opting for reusable alternatives is a great way to curb this waste. Try starting with beeswax wrap, reusable bowl covers, or silicone food bags instead of plastic cling wrap and sandwich bags. Cloth towels are a great alternative to disposable paper towels that are more environmentally friendly and will save you cash in the long run.
Enjoy fresh veggies in your cooking? Starting a vegetable garden in your backyard or on your balcony can help lower your carbon footprint. Herbs, cucumbers, tomatoes, and salad greens are great places to start, especially for novice gardeners. This can also help cut the costs of your grocery bills in the long run.
Food waste can be a major contributor to greenhouse gases. Associate Professor Kate Parizeau at the University of Guelph and colleagues conducted a study to determine how much food waste was being created by 94 families in Guelph. The results were staggering: each family threw out almost seven pounds of avoidable food waste every week, equivalent to 23.3kg of carbon emissions. Cutting back on avoidable food waste is crucial and starting a compost bin can help alleviate the amount of methane gas build up in dumps that’s released into the atmosphere.
In the bathroom
Canada is home to one fifth of the world’s freshwater, but that doesn’t mean we have water to waste. The average Canadian uses about 65 per cent of their household’s water in their bathroom and about 35 per cent of their total water use on bathing and showering alone. Swapping out your shower head for an environmentally friendly low flow version can use up to 60 per cent less water. If that’s not feasible, try setting your shower head to a lower setting. Another way to cut back on water waste is to turn off your tap while brushing your teeth and washing your face.
If you have the space, try line drying your clothes instead of using your dryer to save energy. You can set up a line dryer in your backyard, but if that isn’t an option, opt for a small drying rack inside your home.
In the living room
Most households have tons of technology for personal use. It’s not uncommon to have a television, internet modem, DVD player, video game console, or more all connected at once. However, even when these pieces of tech aren’t actively in use, they’re still using energy. A great way to cut back on this unnecessary energy usage is to get a power strip for all living room devices and turning it off when they’re not in use. Unplugging each one when they’re not in use in an alternative that also helps conserve energy.
These suggestions are things you can take on at an individual or household level. If you have ideas to help your community mitigate climate change, contact your MP, member of provincial parliament and your local councillor. With elections on the horizon, including municipal elections in Quebec, this is a great time to raise the issue of waste management and climate change and demand solutions from elected officials.