By Michela Gittens
Climate change is not a new concept. Scientists have been speaking of climate change for some time. With every passing year, natural disasters such as category 5 hurricanes in the Caribbean and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes in Indonesia underscore that climate change is happening now, at an alarming rate and with grave consequences.
Human activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels, industrial processes and deforestation, are the leading causes of climate change. We depend heavily on Earth’s natural resources for commodities ranging from electricity to clothing, however, it is essential that we reduce our carbon consumption and move to a more carbon neutral society if we intend to address this looming threat. This will require a shift in thinking and behavior to lessen the burden on our natural resources and to help us achieve a sustainable future. Now I am not suggesting you go out and buy an electric vehicle or purchase solar panels, although, if you have the means to, that would be fantastic and a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. In this article, I will detail the simple and affordable ways that I reduce my environmental impact. These are quite easy to adopt and will get you started on a rewarding journey towards sustainable living.
Disposing of Waste according to Municipal Standards
Here in Toronto, waste is sorted into three categories: recycling, compost and garbage. Sure, it is easier to just throw everything in the garbage bin but correctly sorting your waste can benefit the environment and reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill. To make the sorting process easier, I consult the Waste Wizard on the City of Toronto website to assist me in identifying what waste items go where.
LED lights are extremely energy efficient, utilizing up to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs. Utilizing LEDs are a great way to reduce your energy consumption and your electricity bill!
Reduce Plastic Consumption
Single-use plastics such as plastic bags, water bottles and straws have dire environmental consequences. According to the UN, only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled, 12% has been incinerated and the remaining 79% has accumulated in landfills, dumps and the natural environment such as the ocean. Consider using refillable water bottles instead of purchasing bottled water, carrying reusable bags when shopping and switching to stainless steel straws or paper straws in place of the traditional plastic ones.
According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, in 2017, the transportation sector was accountable for 24% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada making it the second largest source of emissions. Utilizing public transit is a great way to reduce these emissions without incurring high cost. I take advantage of the TTC 12-Month Pass, a monthly cost of $138.55. It is a very cost effective and environmentally conscious way to get around the city.
Minimalistic and Circular Thinking
Have you ever looked around your home and realized how many items you do not use or even need? When I was preparing to relocate to Toronto and was taking stock of what I would bring with me, only then did I realize how many items I bought over the years and used once or never at all. In a society where it is effortless to be a consumer, it is very easy to get caught up on trends and fads. Since then, I have adopted a minimalistic and circular way of thinking. I often ask myself whether I need an item. Instead of the usual ‘take-make-waste’ mentality, I have implemented a circular approach to breathe life into products that would have otherwise been discarded.
Paperless Billing and E-statements
The paper industry is a major contributor to deforestation. In this digital era, opting for paperless billing and e-statements are great ways to reduce paper consumption. Paper is a recyclable commodity but not everyone recycles it. It is always better to prevent the generation of waste instead of creating it and then having to find environmentally friendly way to dispose of it.
This list of green initiatives is by no means exhaustive. There are countless ways to reduce your carbon footprint on the environment. These are just some easy habits and behavioral changes that I have adopted to start building a precedent where the environment is considered in all things that I do.
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