Photo: Are you greener than your city?

I showed Kylie how to avoid the Dirty Dozen in her personal care products. (Credit: Lindsay Coulter)

Recently, I visited prize winner Kylie of Regina, Saskatchewan to "green" her like she's never been greened before.

But how green can you be in a city built for cars and not people?

A prairie girl from the burbs myself, I wasn't surprised at the degree of car-dependency there—wide roads, one bike lane. But then it got worse: no curbside recycling and a downtown core that resembled a ghost town on Sunday.

I got my first car for my 16th birthday — a bright orange '81 Lada. When I planned my move to Vancouver over seven years ago, the first thing I did was sell my car. Family and friends warned me, "You'll be stuck in second gear." But nobody said "You won't need a car."

According to Walkscore, Kylie's Regina home rates 35 out of 100, or "car-dependent." My Vancouver neighbourhood scores 90, "a walker's paradise." Will this stand in the way of Kylie's green journey?

Doesn't have to!

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There are two, great, Earth-friendly stores in Regina: Dad's Organic Market and Nature's Best. Both carry organic produce and eco stuff like washing soda and nontoxic dandruff shampoo.

A letter to the editor in the Prairie Dog showed I'm not the only one wishing Regina was as green as a Roughriders jersey. The writer's wish list for her city's downtown:

  • Wider patios for people to enjoy all day (even after work and on weekends)
  • Healthy urban trees
  • Public spaces for Farmers' Markets, festivals, etc.
  • Walkable corridors
  • Chairs in the square

Kylie doesn't need to wait for her city to go a deeper shade of green. Here's what I suggested she start right now:

  1. Backyard compost (and see my composting FAQs)
  2. Quit lining the garbage pail with plastic shopping bags
  3. Choose the "greenest" kitty litter (I was advised not to meet Kylie's "attack cat")
  4. Choose deodorant and shampoo without the Dirty Dozen, even make your own
  5. Switch to nontoxic home cleaners (I taught Kylie and five of her family members how to make my green cleaning recipes)
  6. Get crafty with amazing websites like E-How, Threadbanger and Instructables

What's the most difficult green challenge where you live?

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

August 12, 2012

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Sep 05, 2012
8:16 AM

Here in the Durham Region of Ontario there is a long list of green obstacles:

1) unreliable and ineffective public transit 2) no bike lanes on busy and dangerous streets (if you aren't biking on the sidewalk, you're practically suicidal) 3) very limited availability of organic, locally-grown produce 4) municipal recycling rejects a distressing amount of materials 5) community apathy 6) completely insufficient funding for trail and protected land maintenance and programming 7) almost non-existent recycling programs for businesses 8) municipal composting isn't available to all residents 9) complete lack of a "green" community in which like-minded individuals can meet and take action

All this and we're also home to a great many pollution-spewing, environment-contaminating industries (cement, tires, cars, etc.). However, I think that if we could just have bike lanes it would make a huge difference. How can not using a car (for both environmental and health reasons) be promoted if the only alternatives are unsafe or can't be relied upon to get you to work on time, if at all?

Aug 22, 2012
5:41 PM

My most difficult challenge is getting around in this new country residential Whitehorse Copper subdivision which was created around 2008 in Whitehorse, Yukon. Unfortunately, there was a lack of vision on the side of the city and territorial government planners, resulting in very wide roadways and no walkways, sidewalks, anything! If I want to visit my neighbour I have to take the car for fear of being run over on the short walk over there, as you have to walk on the road. Forget about walking your dogs here

Aug 21, 2012
7:04 PM

My biggest challenge in Mississauga is getting access to local, organic foods. This city is an absolute dead-zone for farmer's markets (outside of the ones at Square One and the Streetsville GO station, which don't have much in organics, and also seem to have some sellers who aren't local farmers). Devastatingly, like so many large cities, farms are pushed further and further to the outskirts and face an incredible amount of development pressure, while issues and protests get swept under the political rug until the farmers finally sell for any number of reasons. I believe farms should be the heart of every community. What if we turned the "conventional" city core inside out? Do we really need one big bustling core to which everyone commutes, or several smaller walkable towns that are within walking/biking distance to an abundance of healthy food? Imagine eating the best local food possible while putting money back into your very own community…!

Aug 14, 2012
6:44 PM

Lack of sidewalks! The new suburb norm is sidewalks on only one side of the street. When our established neighbourhood was slated for construction, the city decided to eliminate the sidewalks on the north side — our side — to conform with "new building policies" and to save money. We organized the neighbours and sent a delegation of 30 to city hall to protest. Sidewalks encourage walking, biking, stopping by and chatting, impromptu visits. Sidewalks are where kids learn to bike, skateboard and rollerblade. Kids chalk on them. People walk their dogs on them. Sidewalks make a community. Our brand new sidewalks were laid last week and already, people are walking and neighbours are stopping by to visit.

Aug 13, 2012
5:40 PM

Plastic water bottles are making a come back it seems…not good

Aug 13, 2012
9:12 AM

I feel that Mississauga should provide green bins within the reach of residents while they are out and about. My family and I make sure we put every last and possible item in the green bin at home, however, we are forced to treat the exact same items as waste outside our home. Currently, Mississauga only provides publicly waste and recycling bins. Yet there is still a need for green bins, which I am sure is felt by many residents.

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